Choosing your health care provider is important. The decision is a personal one that takes patience and thought. In addition to considering their education and expertise, it is essential to ask about a provider’s approach to care and how they will work with you to make decisions. These factors can have a major impact on the quality of your care by influencing:
- The information they provide you about staying healthy and addressing possible health risks or conditions, Your ability to be involved in making decisions about your health care.The services available to you during different stages of life, including pregnancy and birth, menopause, and aging, and
- The types of experts who will be involved in your care, such as physicians, therapists, dietitians, and nurses.
Questions to Ask Your Potential Provider
When choosing a care provider, it’s important to know your full range of options so that you can make an informed decision. Your health is too important to rely on other people’s recommendations, or to just “go where you have always gone.” Your health care provider’s services and approach to care should match your unique goals and values. Asking potential providers questions about their style of care will help you decide who will best meet your needs. Below are sample questions to ask women’s health care providers that may help you in making your decision.
- Did you graduate from a nationally accredited midwifery or medical education program? What is your degree?
- Are you licensed to practice in this state?
- What is your certification? (For midwives: Have you completed a national exam to earn a midwifery certification? What is that certification? (Click here for more information on the different types of midwives.)(For physicians: Are you board certified? In what specialty?)
- How will you determine if the care you specialize in is the right care for me?
- If I choose you as my health care provider, who else will be involved in my care?
- What types of health care services do you provide? Can you provide care for more general health needs like flu shots and minor illnesses?
- How long does it take to get an appointment and how long are typical waits at the office before I see you?
- How long will my appointments be when I come for my yearly checkups and pap tests?
- Do you offer family planning resources and birth control options?
- How can you help me understand health care information and make good health care decisions?
- Can my family members come with me to my appointments?
- At which locations can I receive my care?
- Who do I call when the office is not open?
Additional Questions for Maternity Care Providers
- Do you provide maternity care services?
- Do you provide home, birth center, or hospital care?
- How much time will you spend with me during each prenatal visit?
- How do you work with women who have birth plans or specific preferences for their childbirth experiences?
- What is your rate of cesarean? Induction of labor? Episiotomy? Forceps or vacuum birth? Internal or external monitors?
- How will you help me manage the pain of labor?
- What is your experience with women who do not want to use medications during labor?
- What is your experience with women who do want to use medications during labor?
- How will you determine what level of medical attention I need during pregnancy, birth, and other significant life events?
- What role will my birth partner play? Are my family and my doula welcome?
- Are there “routine” procedures and rules that you follow during the final weeks of pregnancy or once I am in labor? (For example, do you recommend IV fluids, food and drink restrictions, or episiotomy?) How can I get the most information about them, so that I can choose those that are right for me?
- How is the care you provide for low-risk, healthy women different than the care you provide for women with health complications?
- Is there anything about my or my baby’s health that you would consider high risk?
- If I have complications or need to have a cesarean birth, who will be involved in my care? Will you still be involved in my care?
- What will happen if complications arise during birth? What if I need the care of a physician?
- If a cesarean is required, will you recommend that I try a vaginal birth in my next pregnancy, or will you advise a repeat cesarean?
Resources: Finding Your Ideal Provider
There are many resources available to help you find a healthcare provider in your area. Before making an appointment, consider searching for more information on the provider, such as education history and online reviews from current or former clients.
The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) has an excellent tool where you can enter your location and find midwives who are certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) or certified midwives (CMs) and are also members of ACNM in your area. Visit the ACNM Find a Midwife practice locator to learn more about midwifery resources available to you.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) provides a physician directory to help you find an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) in your area. This online tool will allow you to search for an OB/GYN who is also an ACOG member by name, state, or zip code.