When Your Provider Isn't a Good Fit
I had a meeting with a family recently that got me thinking about what to do if you realize the provider you’ve chosen is not the right provider for you. As I talked about in my post about picking a provider there are many different types of providers and each one will have a different style and approach to care. Sometimes you might find yourself at odds with your provider’s approach. What then?
Depending on your situation you have a few different options.
If insurance or provider availability allows, you can always switch providers. Maybe you want a different type of provider (a midwife instead of an OB) or you just want to switch to a different doctor or midwife. You can do research on providers in your area or ask for recommendations from your friends or family or your doula. You can schedule a meeting or appointment with providers that you’re interested in. Come with questions about what you’re looking for in a new provider. You deserve to receive care from someone whom you feel safe and supported with!
Unfortunately, many people are limited in their choice of provider by insurance or by lack of providers in their geographic area. If this is the case and you can’t switch, it might be worth talking with your current provider about your concerns. Let them know that you’re not feeling supported or that you’re not feeling like you’re on the same page. Share some specific things that could help you feel more comfortable. If your wishes for medical care differ from your provider, share your reasons for your preferences or bring in research supporting your preferences. A doula friend of mine had a client whose doctor wanted to induce her early solely based on her weight. Her client did not agree with this recommendation, so she asked, sincerely, that they doctor show her the research that backed up the recommendation. The doctor, it turned out, didn’t have any research and my friend’s client was able to compromise with the doctor. She waited for labor to start on its own and she also came into the clinic for non-stress tests to make sure baby was doing well. Asking for what you want can have good results!
If your conversations with your provider aren’t productive and you can’t switch, consider hiring a doula or relying on another advocate to help you navigate the relationship. Even if you and your provider don’t see eye-to-eye you can still have a fulfilling birth experience. You just need people who are on your team. They can help you ask questions and create space to advocate for yourself. You can brainstorm alternatives together, like staying at home in early labor for as long as possible (to avoid spending too much time at the hospital with your provider) or relaxation techniques to keep you in a calm state of mind even under stress. Even just having someone to validate your experience can help you feel better about a less-than-ideal provider, having someone to nod and say “I saw that. It wasn’t fair. Let’s just take a breath together and keep having this baby. We can talk about it later.”
Even if you have a wonderful relationship with your provider, many doctors and midwives work with other providers in an on-call system. When you go into labor, your preferred provider might not be available. Your care provider might be someone you’ve never met. There are a few things you can do to make this process a little smoother. If possible, schedule appointments with your providers’ partners so you can get to know them before you go into labor. If not, make sure you bring your birth preferences with you to the hospital or share them with your midwife when they arrive at your home. You can talk through them together and they can answer any questions you have. I would recommend doing the same with nursing staff at the hospital. During your labor, continue to communicate your needs to the nurses and providers.
I also want to talk briefly about residents. Many hospitals, especially teaching hospitals, have residents provide some care to pregnant folks in addition to attending physicians. It’s very important from residents to learn, especially from physiologic births, so they can become excellent doctors. But you are under no obligation to let them learn on your body. I’ll say it again because it’s important: YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO LET THEM LEARN ON YOUR BODY. If your provider relies heavily on residents, talk with them about options for residents’ involvement in your labor.
As always, if you have specific questions or concerns, comment below or shoot me an email!