10 Questions to Ask Your Birth Provider
Choosing a Midwife or Obstetrician to attend your birth can be a little intimidating. With so many important factors, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed thinking about what to ask potential providers in order to decide which one is right for you. Here is a simple list of questions that will give you the information you need to feel confident in your choice.
- What is your training?
There are essentially three avenues of training that qualify someone to head your birth care team. An Obstetrician (OB) is a medical doctor who has completed the schooling and residency required to practice in a hospital or birth clinic. A CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) has completed a full course of training at an accredited Midwifery school and can practice out of birth centers as well as in homes or hospitals. A CNM (Certified Nurse-Midwife) has completed Nursing school as well as a Midwifery program. All of these are fully qualified to attend to your birth, but one may be more in line with the practices and regulations you want in place during your labor and delivery.
- What are your values?
Asking about a potential provider’s birth philosophy is a good way to determine if they align with the culture that you want surrounding your birth experience. Ask about their feelings on any birthing practices that you are strongly in favor of or opposed to. If you would like your religious beliefs to be a part of your birthing space, ask if they are comfortable with and equipped for shaping your experience in that way. While many providers are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to accommodate you, finding someone whose values are naturally in line with yours will increase your chances of getting exactly what you want.
- How much experience do you have?
Training is one thing, but experience is entirely another. Asking your provider how many years of practical experience they have, how many births they’ve attended, and the sorts of locations and circumstances they’ve worked in can help you get a better feel for how equipped they are to handle whatever unique variables might arise with your birth.
- What kind of equipment do you work with?
Knowing not only what equipment your birth provider has access to, but how it will be used during your birth can be very helpful in your own process of feeling informed and in control when you enter labor. On top of that, knowing that your provider is well versed in the equipment they will be using, or whether they have access to the sort of measuring, monitoring, or supportive equipment that you value most will be a huge help in making the choice that will give you the greatest peace of mind.
- What is your standard birth procedure?
Ask your potential provider to walk you through what a typical birth is like under their care. Be sure to ask about specifics, such as the birth positions they favor, how invasive dilation checks will be, and whether they will ask consent before checks. This will help you to discern whether their process is in line with what you want, and find a provider whose procedures are as loose or as rigid as you require to feel secure and supported during your labor.
- What is your emergency protocol?
Just like with the birth procedure, be sure to ask your potential provider to walk you through their standard protocol for handling emergency situations. For home births, ask at what point they would consider a hospital transfer, and whether they are certified in neonatal resuscitation. For hospital births, ask them at exactly which point they would switch from an attempted vaginal birth to a mandatory C-Section. The more you know about your provider’s capacity to respond to emergencies, the more secure you will feel going into your birth.
- What sort of birth support have you worked alongside/do you encourage?
Knowing whether your birth provider is comfortable working alongside a doula, or allowing a partner or family member to be actively involved during labor is incredibly important to tailoring your birth experience. If you would like your birth to be an open and social experience, pick a provider that frequently works alongside a birth support team and who is comfortable working when energy and emotion in a room are high. Relatedly, make sure that your provider is willing to uphold your wishes for who is allowed to be in the room while you are laboring. If certain family members are going to bring you more stress if they are present, your provider should be willing to be strict with your boundaries while you are vulnerable.
- What are your pre and post-natal services?
The care you receive before and after your birth can be just as important as the care received during. Be sure to ask how many consultation visits or checkups they provide before and after the birth, as well as crucial services they might provide. Important services to ask about may include prenatal dietary counseling, post-birth vaginal suture and repair, assessment of infant health, and breastfeeding support. Depending on the level of involvement you want from your provider, you may realize that some services are more important to you than others which can aid in your decision.
- What are the costs involved with your service?
Here’s a big one. Nobody likes having to factor money into something as important as birth, but it’s also important that the provider you choose has prices that are within your means. If you are working with an OB, make sure that their services are covered by your insurance. For those without insurance or with lower income, some Midwives have home birth rates that are more manageable than those at the hospital. Be aware of services that you can opt out of in order to cut costs. Choosing birth care that fits your life and means can take a lot of stress out of the process.
- Who are you as a person?
This last one may seem a little less obvious, but when shaping your birth experience, having a provider who you have personal chemistry with can make all the difference as to whether you are fully at ease in your birthing space. Take some time to get to know your provider as a person and make sure you can converse with them in an easy, friendly way as they work with you on your birth plan. If you want your provider to avoid small talk and to be entirely clinical, that’s absolutely fine, but if you are planning for your birth to be a more relaxed and intimate experience, it’s incredibly important that your provider fits into that dynamic. One awkward element can bring a whole lot of anxiety into an otherwise relaxing birth environment.