Any trained doctor can deliver a healthy baby, congratulate the family, and move on to the next patient. But it takes someone with character and commitment to personally connect with your case and give you what you need if things get rough.
I know. I've survived two miscarriages, two anxiety- and sickness-riddled pregnancies, and one misdiagnosed miscarriage. I fired my first obstetrician when I was 16 weeks pregnant with my first child. She lost messages, kept me waiting, had stupid advice for my hyperemesis gravidarum ("Take Tums!"), and never remembered my name.
When I called my new OB to tell her I was having heavy bleeding six weeks into my next pregnancy, she told me: "If you're miscarrying, there's nothing I can do about it. Just wait it out." When it was over, she was oblivious to the idea that I might grieve the loss of a 6-week old embryo. Why I stayed with her, I don't know: When I lost my third pregnancy at 10 weeks, she confirmed that the baby was dead without looking at me and fled the room.
What has this taught me? The course of pregnancy does not always run smooth, and it's better to leave the gate with a doctor who will support you through every treacherous step of the way.
After forming a search committeemy grief counselor and friends who had lost pregnanciesI finally have the right doctor for me. He will give me ultrasounds just because I'm worried and patiently repeat my chances of miscarriage every visit, then reiterate his statements later on the phone just to calm me down.
Now that I know what good care looks like, I want to shout from the rooftops: "Women! You deserve more from your doctor!"
There is advice online about how to find someone who will facilitate a natural or vaginal birth, but no questions to ask that will help you find a doctor to support you through the ups and the downs.
So, here's my list of questions.
- Can you give me some examples of how you treat high-risk or high-anxiety pregnancies? Do you have the extra time to give to patients who merit extra care?
- What would you do if I called with nonurgent symptoms (such as unusual discharge or a reduction in pregnancy symptoms) and a feeling that something was wrong with the pregnancy? Would you be able to examine me within the next 48 hours?
- What do you tell pregnant women who are experiencing bleeding during pregnancy? (The correct answer here is: "Come right in," not "Wait and see.")
- If, heaven forbid, we were to discover that my embryo or fetus had died, would you be able to take time that day to counsel me through the loss and direct me to additional resources?
- If I needed to have a D&C, would you be the one performing it?
I also believe that any doctor who refuses to grant a pre-pregnancy interview is an automatic "no." If they don't have time for you now, they won't have time for you later.
I deserved better than the care I received from my past OBs, and I wish I'd known how much I'd need a doctor who remembered my name when I started out on my journey to make a family.