10 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Prenatal Care Provider

Ask the questions that are most important to you first. Always pursue specific answers. A doctor's replies are based on her beliefs and training, and her personal experience colors every answer she gives you. Do not expect a doctor to be enthusiastic about something she has never tried before. Like the rest of us, doctors do best what they do most.

1. Can my partner be with me at all times, including in the cesarean operating room?
This is first an issue of hospital policy, and then secondly, it's up to individual doctors.

2. How many other people can I have with me at all times?
The role of the helping woman, the doula, is becoming more popular in American hospital births. Some laboring women prefer that they have two women there with them.

3. What percentage of your patients do you deliver yourself?
You naturally assume she'll be there, but many a laboring woman has a rude awakening when an unknown doctor shows up at a time there are enough strangers (nurses and other hospital employees) to cope with as it is. Now your doctor may say (and many have), "Of course, I'll deliver your baby, except if I'm not on call or if I'm out of town." At first hearing, it sounds as though she'll be there. Check further. Ask, "About what percentage of your patients do you personally help deliver -- 75 percent, 50 percent, 30 percent?" She'll have some idea.

We know from what mothers tell us, which is reinforced in recent studies, how important it is for most of them to have their own doctor there, especially if they have gone to a lot of trouble to choose her. But as most of you will not have a guarantee that Dr. Right will be on call, ask to meet all the other doctors who cover for her, and review your birth preferences with them.

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