Does it Matter How Well You Know Your Maternity Caregiver?

Yes, yes yes!!! I’m sure there are far too many of us who go in and out of our doctors’ appontments without knowing a thing about their personal lives or their general practice philosophy. I would like to argue that it is very important to get to know your maternity caregiver. When I discuss getting to know your provider, note that it is equally important to strive to get to know any doctors in a group practice who might be on call when you go into labor. If you only get to know your own doctor or midwife but he or she isn’t the one there for the big day, then all of this is null.

 Here are some reasons why it does matter how well you know your providers:

1.) How well you know your caregiver is an indication of how familiar you are with his or her philosophy and practices.

If your appointments consist of 10 minutes- blood pressure, pee in the cup, listen to the baby, get your belly measured, head on out- then you don’t know too much about who your doctor or midwife is. An initial interview with your provider can be helpful to get an idea of where he or she is coming from. However, I think it’s even more important to talk and ask questions about her birth philosophy and practices at each appointment. Over time, you will begin to see patterns emerging: active management vs. hands-off watchfulness, natural-birth friendly vs. natural-childbirth-makes-as-much-sense-as-natural-dentistry-minded, or pushy for his own agenda vs. the mom’s preferences taking the lead.

It is imperative that you try to talk to your caregiver about birth issues that concern you as much as you can well before the birth. Make sure you get his or her personal rates of c-sections, episiotomies, epidurals, IVs, etc. If you’re planning a homebirth, get your midwife’s transfer rates. Ask your provider a thousand questions about every circumstance you can think of. If you wait until you are in labor, it will be too late to know what to expect and you will not likely be in a good position to consider your options in the middle of strong contractions.

2.) How well you know your caregiver helps you know how you will work together.

The more you get to know your caregiver and discuss options with him or her ahead of time, the better idea you’ll have of how the two of you work together. If your personalities are always butting heads, then this is a hint that clashes could occur during labor. If your doctor always explains the pros and cons of each procedure and then asks you to make the decision, you have a pretty good chance of him being the same way on labor day. Of course, if you don’t know your caregiver very well, then you have no idea how you will work together for your birth. This adds one more variable of uncertainty to the process of labor and delivery- something that no laboring mother needs. This leads us to our last point.

3.) How well you know your caregiver helps you know how comfortable you will be at your birth.

The better you know your provider, the better you’ll know whether this particular doctor or midwife will make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable at your birth. Perhaps you discover that your caregiver is arrogant and inconsiderate of your desires for birth, or perhaps she is polite but you have differing birth philosophies. If these situations are the case, you may want to consider switching to a different doctor or midwife. You do not want to have to fight for the birth you hope for- you should be entirely supported towards acheiving your goals.

Perhaps, on the other hand, you discover that you and your caregiver are very much on the same page. Wonderful! Ideally, there should be a balance between your caregiver respecting your desires for birth and you trusting your caregiver’s professional training if something goes awry. If you have found this careful balence, then you know that you can be comfortable with your provider during labor and delivery.

Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this if you didn’t get to know your midwife or doctor during pregnancy. You wouldn’t have an understanding of her philosophy, you wouldn’t know what your interaction would be like during labor, and you wouldn’t know whether you would feel supported or be made to feel stupid and incompetent. You would go into labor feeling nervous and unsure of how things would go, and your caregiver might not neccessarily be a symbol of security to you.

If you do know your caregiver well, you will know much better what to expect, and you have the freedom to change who you’re seeing if you decide you aren’t comfortable with what you’re expecting. So, ladies- let’s get better acquainted with our maternity care providers!

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