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What should you ask a potential OB/GYN?

A guide for feeling comfortable with your OB selection

Ask about the doctor’s rate of episiotomies (an incision of the perineum to widen the vaginal opening to ease delivery of the baby). Some women look for a doctor who won’t rush to perform this procedure. Is the doctor willing to take time to stretch the tissue during labor?


According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were more than 500,000 episiotomies performed in the United States in 2005. Some doctors say episiotomies make for easier delivery of the baby and faster healing (a surgical incision will heal better than a tear in the perineum with fewer complications). Routine use of episiotomies has been questioned for many years as to its necessity and to meeting its objectives (fewer complications than if a tear had occurred).


“Personally, I try to avoid episiotomies unless they’re indicated,” says Dr. Roberts, adding she only does them if the baby is in distress or has difficulty getting out. “For the average woman having a baby, an episiotomy is not something that’s necessary.”

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You also want to ask about the doctor’s rate of performing Caesarean sections (C-sections) and the risks associated with them. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the C-section rate was 31.1 percent of all births in 2006. Some C-sections are done because the mother asks for it, but many are done because of fetal distress – for example, because the baby is positioned in such a way that delivery would be difficult or not recommended (anything other than a head down position).


Dr. Roberts says that although a C-section is very safe, it is still major surgery and a patient would be exposed to all the risks associated with it.


Ask about the doctor’s training. Is she board certified? How long has she been practicing? Dr. Roberts says if you feel your doctor is well trained, you’ll be more confident in the recommendations that your doctor makes.


Is the doctor part of a group? If you prefer to get one-on-one treatment by only one doctor, a group practice is probably not the choice for you. At a group with more than one OB/GYN, you will want to see each doctor at least once prior to your delivery so you can get acquainted with the doctors and let each one know your preferences for your child’s birth.


Just don’t count on getting your “favorite” doctor when you’re ready to deliver (unless you schedule an elective Cesarean); whoever is on call when you’re in labor is the doctor you’ll get. For this reason, you should be comfortable with all the doctors in the practice.

Other considerations include the doctor’s bedside manner. Does this doctor listen to your concerns and take time to answer your questions? “When patients feel comfortable with their physician, they’re more willing to ask about side effects of medications rather than go home and not take them,” says Dr. Roberts.

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Also, patients who are comfortable with their doctor will be more compliant with follow-up visits and follow lifestyle changes recommended by their doctor.


Stella Atkins of Kingston chose a large ob/gyn group for treatment during her first pregnancy five years ago. “I’ve always felt more comfortable with female OB/GYNs simply because they understand the female experience. At the practice I chose, I really didn’t like the head doctor,” she explains. “I felt like he spoke down to me, even though this was my first pregnancy and it was all new to me. I left the office in tears more than once. But I loved all the female doctors who talked with me and not at me.


“Ironically, the one doctor in the practice that I disliked was the one on duty that night I went into labor,” says Atkins. “But, I had a long labor, so by the time I delivered, my favorite doctor was there and she was wonderful.”


If you find that after a few visits you just don’t “click” with that doctor, it’s not too late in your pregnancy to switch. In fact, the sooner you make the change, the easier it may be for you.