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What to look for in the doctor who's going to deliver your baby

Sometimes you just don't vibe with a doctor, and it's OK to try to find a better match.
A newborn and his mother at maternity ward
Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images stock

Finding the right doctor is so important towards feeling like you have a solid health care Rolodex in place, but finding the right doctor to help you bring life into the world is even more crucial.

I had no idea how you find a doctor when you’re pregnant because, well, I have never been pregnant. But a bunch of my friends have and now, all of them moms with kids 2 and under, they have a lot of wisdom to dispense, so I went to them for advice on what to look for when searching for the right obstetrician.

It's OK to find a new doctor.

When Emily Fleishaker learned she was pregnant with her first baby, she knew that she needed a doctor who could answer all of the questions she was bound to ask over the next nine months.

“You have to be comfortable,” Fleishaker told me. She mentioned that in her 20s, she had been going to an OB-GYN who made her feel insecure that she had not yet gotten married or thought about starting a family. Fleishaker, who later got married in 2016 in her early 30s, felt under pressure from that doctor and finally asked her internist what to do.

Her internist essentially said it was totally fine and normal not to vibe with a doctor and that it was always OK to try to find a better match.

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Fleishaker picked a doctor in Manhattan’s Upper East Side neighborhood, which required a lengthy commute from her Brooklyn apartment but she said she was willing to travel because of how much she liked and trusted her new doctor.

In a city environment, you will also need to know at which hospital your doctor has admitting permissions. If you have a strong preference for one hospital over another, it's worth keeping that in mind as you start your search.

Know what is important to you.

Leslie Horn, whose son Douglas was born in early August 2018, said she “wanted a woman doctor so I looked for that." If you expect you're going to feel more comfortable sharing the very intimate experience of birth with someone of the same gender, that's OK. Being honest with yourself about that at the beginning of your search can help narrow down your options.

Studies also show that African American patients reported a higher level of satisfaction with the care they received when working with a doctor of the same race and felt that their appointments were more participatory.

How to pick an OB
Leslie Horn and her son Douglas, now 22 months old.Leslie Horn

"Meeting her for the first time I asked about things like her C-section and episiotomy rates which were two things I wanted to avoid,” Horn continued. (An episiotomy is an incision made between the vagina and the anus to give the baby a little more room on the way out, and it requires an extremely timely and painful recovery.)

I had no idea you could even ask about a doctor’s rates on these things. If you already have an idea about your birth preferences, you should ask your doctor to share their own views on those preferences to see if you're compatible. If you aren't, you might be in for some challenging conversations as delivery nears. You may not have done enough research to make those decisions in the beginning, but in addition to their C-section and episiotomy rates, it's worth asking about their approach to pain management, rate of induction, thoughts on assisted vaginal delivery (using tools like forceps and vacuums) and views on breastfeeding.

Horn said she did a ton of research through online forums and through her friends and really felt strongly about finding a doctor that was compatible with her and her husband. Like Fleishaker, Horn echoed, “If you don’t vibe with the doctor, keep looking.”

How to pick an OB
Jenny Marder and her daughter, Colby.Jenny Marder

Ask around.

Jenny Marder loved the OB-GYN she had been seeing her in suburban Philadelphia since she was a teenager. But when she became pregnant, it became clear that a 90-minute round-trip drive from their new Philadelphia home to see her doctor would not make a ton of sense. Marder started to consult friends and family; asking for doctor recommendations. She wanted to go off the recommendation of someone she trusted instead of hoping that the reviews on the internet left by strangers were accurate.

“My good friend recommended the doctor who delivered her son. When I was pregnant, I immediately called and made an appointment,” Marder explained. “Though it was nerve-wracking going to a new doctor for a slightly terrifying experience like a first pregnancy, knowing she came with great reviews from someone I trusted soothed away (most of) my anxieties.”

Don't worry about hurting the doctor's feelings.

One thing that all three moms said over and over again: Don’t worry about hurting the doctor’s feelings if you don’t feel like they’re the right fit for you. Doctors are used to this. They understand they may not connect with every patient. It’s OK to say you want to explore options and you have every right to — it’s an emotional choice.