Our author, award-winning midwife Beth Helme-Smith, has more than 20 years experience caring for mamas and babies.
If you’re pregnant, you already have way too many people telling you what to do, what to eat, what vitamins to take, how to sleep, what crib to get, what you should never name your child, which preschools you should already be applying to, and where to buy those super-comfy stretch jeans.
The list goes on and on, so we figured we’d jump in and offer the advice that could make the biggest difference in your pregnancy — yes, even more than those sexy stretch jeans.
The best advice: Take your time and do your research when choosing your care provider.
A new chapter in your life is beginning, and whether this is a dream come true or a reason for major apprehension, choosing your care team should be your top priority.
You have a choice and a voice
Remember that, always. Many mamas-to-be don’t realize they have options when choosing a provider for prenatal care.
Too often, a woman chooses her provider because a family member referred them, or their insurance company suggested them, or simply because they’ve already seen this provider and don’t know they can transfer to a new provider.
Some women will seek care at the local clinic or community health center. Others simply take the first available appointment they can get.
News flash: Prenatal care is not the same everywhere you go.
You should know the standards
Prenatal care is based upon standards set by several professional United States organizations. There are certain blood tests that are typically performed in the beginning, to screen for gestational diabetes, and to check up as one prepares for the actual labor process.
Additionally, genetic screening, carrier screening, and optional testing may be performed if it is deemed necessary based upon age or individual health concerns. Ultrasounds are performed to determine viability, confirm development is happening properly, and sometimes for growth or to follow up on potential issues. Each of these tests should be explained in detail and consent obtained by your provider.
You develop your own philosophy
Chances are, you have a stack of parenting books, you’ve reached out to your mom friends, and you’ve taken a few prenatal classes (or are planning to). Translation: You’ve probably used this info to develop your own birth philosophy.
When you share those ideas with your healthcare team, you should feel a sense of alignment. You should feel respected. And you should feel confident that you’ll have a say in how your birth unfolds.
You have a great story waiting for you
One chance. That’s all you get to meet your little human for the first time. It’s a story you’ll tell countless times. Therefore, it needs to be a good story. A story of respect, of understanding, of being heard and respected.
Even if your birth doesn’t go according to your plan, you should come away with a good story and a sense of peace.
For that to happen, you’ll need to make smarter choices now. One of the more important is choosing the hospital that best aligns with your expectations. Some hospitals have higher C-section rates than the surrounding facilities. Some have lactation consultants to help make sure breastfeeding gets off to a good start. Some hospitals have specialized higher acuity neonatal intensive care units. All of these factors can influence your birth story.
You can choose your provider
Hair stylist. Dentist. Auto mechanic. Landscaper. General contractor. Massage therapist.
For each of these services, you choose people who come highly recommended, of course. But you also want people who listen to your requests, who make you feel valued, and who communicate in ways that make you feel comfortable.
The same goes for your care provider.
Your provider also can have a tremendous impact upon your birth experience.
- Are you comfortable with your provider?
- Can you talk to your provider?
- Will they be there on your big day?
- Do they support your birth plan?
- If you have had a previous cesarean section, are you a candidate for a vaginal trial of labor?
- Does your provider support Trial of Labor After C-section (TOLACs)?
- If so, what is their success rate vs the repeat C-section rate?
- Will you have autonomy during the birth
- What about true informed consent?
- Will procedures be explained to you prior to being performed?
Expert tip: All of these answers should be a definitive Yes.
If not, you need to ask more questions. Maybe you need to discuss your concerns with your provider at your next visit. Bring your birth plan to a visit and go over your choices with your providers.
You can always transfer
If you don’t get the answers you want, then it’s time to seek a transfer of care. Some women transfer care and deliver the very next day!
It’s never too late!
You’ll benefit from a meet and greet
We’re biased, but you’re going to love our team.
Need convincing? Join us for a meet and greet appointment to get to know our providers. We listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and tell you about our practice and our hospital partners. We will discuss all your options. We can even help you get your records from your former provider.
This is your birth. We want you to be happy every time you share your story, even if you never found that perfect pair of stretch jeans.