Navigating the healthcare system can be challenging and anxiety-inducing. Even more so if you are an expecting parent, trying to find the right OB/GYN you can trust with your and your baby’s lives. It can feel like a huge task.
How do you find the best OB/GYN for you? What factors do you need to keep in mind while making this decision? Here are important considerations to keep in mind.
Ask For Recommendations and Check Reviews
Beyond asking for referrals from your primary doctors, recommendations from friends and family can be useful guiding points when picking an OB/GYN. They can advise you on their experiences with a particular physician, and also mention any red flags.
Further, you can also check online reviews for each doctor once you have a name that has been recommended to you. Do they have a track record of dealing with high-risk patients? Do they listen to a patient’s concerns? Do they specialize in the type of delivery you prefer (e.g. water birth)? These are all precious pieces of context that digital reviews can reveal. Besides that, you can also find reviews about the ease of booking appointments and waiting times.
Consider Your Health History and Their Qualification
The most basic consideration is to double-check that the OB/GYN is board certified or properly registered. It’s proof that the physician has the basic level of training and skills required, and will be able to provide the obstetric care needed for you and your baby. You can check registration status by using websites such as the General Medical Council’s registry, or Certification Matters for US-based physicians. Once you have checked this, you can look into where they went to medical school and completed their residency, the number of years of experience they have, and if they have any specialized skills in case you have a high-risk pregnancy. This can be done in two ways, the first being through a short preliminary consultation with them. Once you receive the answers to these questions, you can check their organizational affiliations on the organization’s websites and some of this information can even be verified using the databases mentioned above.
Finally, you can also check if they have any records of medical malpractice or serious complaints in their files. You can do this by conducting online searches with their name followed by certain keywords such as "malpractice," "complaint," or "suspension." However, You can also see any recent complaints, undertakings, or warnings issues when you search a doctor’s name on the General Medical Council’s Registry. The website of Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service also provides a list of any recently concluded or pending hearings against physicians.
Anna McCall, 26, has dealt with preeclampsia, a complication characterized by high blood pressure which may damage other organ systems, most often the liver and kidneys, in her prior pregnancies. For her, finding this specific expertise was an important deciding factor, “It was very important that my OBGYN had a good deal of experience in his field of expertise, but also with preeclampsia, an issue that I have dealt with in both my pregnancies.”
Matching Values and Building Trust
“I specifically was looking for a Black or minority OBGYN”, says Janaé Adams, 24. “The practice I went to was Black-owned and only women worked there. It was really important to make sure I connected with my OBGYN on a somewhat personal level.”
You need to be able to talk about issues of contraception, pregnancy, childbirth and your birth plan, post-delivery case, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and more, with your OB/GYN. It is essential to feel entirely comfortable doing so with your chosen physician and to make sure that your views align to a large extent. This can help build trust with your doctor, and help them advocate for you better, based on your needs and preferences. For Adams, being able to trust her doctor was paramount. She says, “It’s extremely important that my OBGYN will advocate for me because Black women have a higher risk of complications in pregnancy than any other race. My doctor and midwife made the decision to give me an emergency C section due to me having COVID-19 and I’m grateful they did everything to make sure I and the baby were ok.”
It’s also important to consult an OB/GYN who recognizes the importance of good mental health and conducts regular screening before, during, and post-pregnancy. Being able to trust your doctor will also ensure that you are able to reveal any mental health difficulties, and get the support that you need.
Look For Good Bedside Manner and Comfort
Even the most qualified and experienced doctors can have an unpleasant bedside manner. You need to look for a doctor who not only listens to you but also respects what you have to say, and gives you the chance to ask as many questions as you wish to know the answers to. Remember, your OB/GYN appointments should open a line of communication, and create space to air your concerns, rather than serve as a platform for a doctor’s monologue. Adams says, “The OBGYN qualifications were important, but more important are personality reviews. I wanted the best qualified in terms of personability and attentiveness to their patients. Someone who would take every precaution and not lack at any appointments.” She adds, “Someone who doesn't get annoyed by me asking a bunch of questions or trying to rush the appointment.”
McCall went further to share the importance of body language and subtle clues that are important in making her feel comfortable with her choice. She says, “To make me feel confident in my choosing a doctor, they must treat me like a person. Things like eye contact, voice tone, and their ability to listen to my concerns in a respectful way mean a great deal to me”.
At the end of the day, choosing an OB/GYN for your pregnancy is a very personal decision. No matter how recommended a doctor comes from your friends or family, they may not be the best fit for you, either based on their qualifications or on your compatibility with them. Besides looking for recommendations, checking qualifications and compatibility, you may also want to factor in things like distance to the clinic, hospital affiliations, and whether your insurance is accepted by the clinic of your choice. And remember, if you end up realizing that your OBGYN is not the right choice for you, you can always ask for a referral to a different one!
As Adams puts it, in the end, it comes down to your comfort, “It’s really comforting while pregnant to feel like the doctor is genuinely happy and rooting for you to succeed”.