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Choosing a pregnancy and birth care provider (they need to be more than ‘just nice’!)

choosing a pregnancy and birth care provider

Generally, your choice care provider will be the most important decision that you will make for your pregnancy and birth.

I know – that’s a big call!

Let me explain.

We know that women are often influenced in their birth choices by their care provider. So if you want a physiological birth and your care provider doesn’t support that birthing option you are likely to end up with interventions you didn’t want.

So many women “choose” their care provider and then write out their birth plan. And they don’t so much choose their care provider as just go with whoever seems nice. I know many women who’ve chosen a care provider because their friend said he was a nice guy or because a particular choice means they can stay in hospital longer after birth or because a friend had a positive outcome with them and then they’ve ended up feeling traumatised because the care provider wasn’t the right one for them.

This way of choosing a care provider fails to take into account YOUR birth goals and the fact that you are not your friend / colleague / sister. What your friend considers a great birth could be totally different to you.

I’d like to offer a couple of steps to choosing the right care provider for you.

  • Write out your birth goal and plan. This doesn’t need to be pages and pages long but it is a good idea to articulate what you want out of your pregnancy and birth. Do you want a physiological birth? Do you want an early epidural? An elective induction? It’s important to know these types of things when you start looking into care provider options. If you want an epidural then the local homebirth midwife probably won’t be the best options for you no matter how lovely she is! Find out how to write a birth plan here.
  • Write out a list of ALL care provider options in your area. Yes, all of them. Even the ones you “wouldn’t ever choose”. Just because an option doesn’t appear to be suitable to you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and once you start really looking into things you may be surprised by what you learn.
  • Chat to people who have accessed these options. I know, I know…I said that you shouldn’t base your decision on other people’s experiences. But it is a great idea to chat to others with your birth goal in mind. Don’t just ask if they liked Dr so and so or if Midwife X was nice. Ask them what their birth goal was and how the care provider helped them achieve it. Ask them how their care provider communicated with them about pregnancy and birth. Ask them how they presented options for care and hospital policies. Take notes and check how the comments measure up alongside your birth goal.
  • Shortlist. The purpose for getting anecdotal information is to help you shortlist your options. Unless you live in a town where you have very limited options you probably won’t have the time to interview every care provider around. Write out your short list with the pros and cons for each provider on it.
  • Chat to the care providers on your short list. This part is IMPORTANT! So many women choose their care provider without ever so much as chatting to them. I won’t even choose a plumber without chatting to them about how they can help me and how much they will charge! Make appointments with the care providers on your short list and put together a list of questions to ask them based on your birth goal. It could even be as simple as taking in your birth goal and asking them how they will help you achieve it. Ask them how many births they have attended that worked out like the one you are planning. Pay attention to the language they use – do they talk a lot about what they will and won’t “let” you do? Do they put themselves at the centre of your birth or do they acknowledge YOU as the most important person in the room? Do you feel safe and cared for and respected?
  • Don’t be afraid to reassess. There’s a really common phenomenon out there called “bait and switch”. The care provider tells you they will support you right up until about 36 weeks, at which time they find something “wrong” and start talking about not being able to support your goals. All of a sudden baby is measuring big or they can’t wait until 40 weeks to do your maternal assisted caesarean because of scheduling issues. If you find at some stage that your care provider no longer supports you in the way that you need, feel free to switch! I know many women who have switched providers, one woman actually switched during labour! and none of them has ever regretted it.

Remember that your choice in care provider is very personal. Your pregnancy and birthing journey is intimate and transformational and one of the most important and life-changing journeys that you will ever take. Choose to surround yourself with people who acknowledge this, make you feel safe and cared for and who support you to achieve the amazing, safe and peaceful birth that you and your baby deserve.

“I deserve the amazing birth I envisage for myself and my baby.”

Lizzie Carroll