Choosing the right care provider is critical to having your best birth. This week we are so excited to feature writer Meagan Church who discusses the importance of aligning your birth ideals with your care provider.
Shortly after I discovered I was pregnant with my first, I met with my family doctor. He had stopped doing obstetric care a few months prior, so I knew he wouldn’t be my care provider for my pregnancy. Even still, I felt compelled to meet with him. I believe that meeting shaped my journey to finding the right provider for me and set the course for a more desirable birth experience.
During the visit, I asked if he had any recommendations for a care provider. Since my husband and I wanted to wait to share the pregnancy news until after the first trimester, I couldn’t turn to family or friends for advice. My doctor simply asked, “What kind of provider do you want?” I hesitated for a moment, not knowing how to respond. Basically I wanted someone who would be covered by my insurance. What else was there to know? He then said he sometimes recommended a certain OB/GYN, but I should first consider that he takes a very patriarchal approach. Then he asked if I’d ever considered a midwife. My doctor said his wife had an at-home birth with a midwife, so perhaps I should consider whether a midwife would more closely match my desires. Essentially what he was asking me to consider is what my birth philosophy was.
Before that conversation, I had never thought of there being such a thing as a birth philosophy. But in the days and weeks after that appointment, I soon learned that practices and philosophies definitely do exist. I needed to understand my thoughts on birth and find a provider who matched those, and not base my choice solely on my HMO. Thankfully my research led me to a great midwifery practice.
As I’ve talked to more and more moms, I’ve come to realize that many women enter pregnancy with the same misconception that I did, not realizing that differences other than personality quirks separate providers from one another. It’s not until much further along in the pregnancy and sometimes even after a traumatic birth experience that some women have realized their birth philosophy and their provider’s did not align. Unfortunately, I have a good friend whose story is precisely that.
From the outset, my friend’s provider showed signs of being very keen on intervention, which concerned me since I knew my friend wanted a natural birth. Throughout her low-risk pregnancy, she had more than five ultrasounds. During one of those, the doctor felt the baby looked too big and that a c-section should be considered. This was a few weeks prior to her due date. My friend called me, asking for advice. I told her to seek a second opinion. She did not want to do that so late in the pregnancy, but after doing her own research and soul-searching, she knew she could not consent to her OB’s assessment. So she sought a second opinion. She took her research and second opinion back to her doctor and said she did not feel a c-section was necessary at that time. The doctor permitted her to wait. Spontaneous labor finally did occur, but it came with the stress of timelines and interventions that my friend had hoped to avoid.
Now, of course every labor is different, but with more research and introspection up front, those last few weeks and even labor could’ve been less stressful and more empowering. So what can you do to avoid a similar situation? First of all, don’t look to an insurance company as the main way of choosing a provider (as I nearly did). Instead, understand how you hope to experience labor (with or without drugs, for instance) and how active a role you want to take in the process—the difference between a team effort and a patriarchal provider. It is not necessary to go as far as to create a birth plan in the first month, but even a general idea of how you feel toward birth can help. The more you ask questions up front and interview providers before making a choice, the better understanding you will have of not only the provider’s philosophy, but also your own. If things go south even at the very end, seek a second opinion. Unless the baby is crowning, it’s not too late.
A midwife once said to me, “You never forget having your baby, so it should be the best experience ever.” And it all starts with a first-trimester decision that could have lasting impact beyond the delivery room. Choose wisely.
Meagan Church is a writer, a reader, a black coffee drinker; a runner, a golfer and a lover of nature; a wife, a mother and a wanna be world changer. Meagan is currently working on a book about the realities of birth, babies and beyond. To learn more, visit www.Unexpectant.com. She also writes about her experiences of motherhood outside of clichés and inside the reality of it all at www.DefiningMotherhood.com.
Did you feel supported by your care provider? Who made up your labor support team?