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If you’re expecting a baby, chances are high that your obstetrician-gynecologist (or OB/GYN) won't be the one delivering it. Most tend to practice in groups so—whether you're pregnant or not—it's important to consider all the members of the practice when choosing your own OB/GYN.
As with any specialist, you should check with the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or with the site Vitals.com to make sure the doctor is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. People often assume all doctors are board certified, but they’re not. In every state, a doctor can practice in any specialty they choose, whether or not they have training in it. So it's always important to check. Some other tips:
- Find a compatible relationship. You want someone you’re really comfortable with; have a sense of trust in; and someone whom you can talk to about approaches to health care and ethical issues. If you don’t feel a mutual respect, find another OB/GYN.
- Ask prospective OB/GYNs about issues that matter to you. You might want their views on medicated versus natural childbirth as well as the use of Cesarean sections. (Research has found that C-sections are over-utilized: The National Center for Health Statistics this year reported that 32 percent of U.S. births were surgical, despite the federal government’s goal of 15 percent by this year.) If you’ve had a C-section, ask for their views on vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC). You might also ask for their stance on abortion. All these issues may come up at some point with your OB/GYN, so it can be helpful to know where he or she stands on each at the onset.
- Visit the hospital where the OB/GYN has privileges: Is it clean, comfortable and orderly? If your pregnancy is high-risk, does the doctor have privileges at a hospital with a neonatal or perinatal center? If possible, select a hospital that does a substantial number of deliveries—typically, at least 1,200 a year. (High-volume hospitals can deliver more than 3,000 babies a year.)
- Obstetrics is a high-risk specialty—most OB/GYNs will be sued at some point. In New York and Massachusetts, you can check a doctor’s malpractice history with the state health department. If you live elsewhere, you can ask the doctor if he or she has ever been sued. However, disciplinary information—whether a doctor has lost his medical license in another state or been sanctioned for sexual abuse—is available from every state. Most state health departments keep that information online.
John J. Connolly is president and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and former president of New York Medical College