How to Choose a Doctor When Pregnant
Your pregnancy test has come back positive and now you have many important decisions to make. Your prenatal care may be one of the first choices as you determine who will care for you and your unborn baby throughout the pregnancy.
Some practical considerations could influence the professional you choose, with insurance coverage and location being important factors in the final decision.
Explore the Possibilities
A family physician is a medical doctor with generalized education and training to practice family medicine. While a family physician does not have specialized training, these doctors can provide prenatal care. Some family physicians provide only prenatal care, referring to an obstetrician for delivery; others provide complete care. An obstetrician is a medical doctor with specialized education and training for managing pregnancy, labor and birth.
Some obstetricians, known as perinatologists, have additional training and expertise to enable them to care for high-risk pregnancies. A high-risk pregnancy includes multiples, a preexisting condition in the mother or pregnancy complications. Each of these types of doctors are options for prenatal care, depending on the level of care you need and the type of healthcare you want.
Consider Your Options
The doctors available to you for healthcare during your pregnancy will likely be determined by your insurance plan. If you do not have insurance, some practices offer payment options to make care more affordable. Request a provider list from your insurance company if you don’t already have one. Review the list to find the obstetrical groups covered by your insurance plan with practicing privileges at the hospital covered by your insurance plan. Circle or highlight groups with geographic locations convenient to your home or workplace. Analyze the care you need during your pregnancy.
For a low-risk pregnancy, you might opt for a family physician. If you have high risk factors with your pregnancy, such as carrying multiples or a health issue that necessitates specialized management, an obstetrician could be a better fit. If your pregnancy requires advanced care by a perinatologist, you would receive a referral from your physician.
Friends and Family
Personal referrals to physicians can be an effective way to find a doctor. Speak with friends and family about the doctors who provided their prenatal care. Ask questions about experiences to determine whether people you know have used a doctor you would like to use, too. Get contact information of physicians to enable you to follow up, when appropriate.
Read the credentials and backgrounds of any physicians you are considering. You might find credentials listed in the provider list from your insurance company. Check physician licensing and medical practice records by visiting the Federation of State Medical Boards website and navigating to your state’s medical board website.
Meet the Contenders
Once you have a short list of physicians that meet your criteria, make appointments to meet them. Ask questions about the length of time the physician spends at typical appointments, how scheduling works (whether you will see only one physician or others in the practice) and how to handle emergencies.
Note the communication style of the physician. Discuss your birth plan to ensure you can agree on these details. A birth plan outlines your preferences for your pregnancy and the birth. Include details such as prenatal testing, labor induction, pain relief and family present in the delivery room. Base your final decision on compatibility and your comfort level with the physician.
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