How to Select an OB/GYN for Your Pregnancy

An expecting mom interviewing a potential OB/GYN

Charles Gullung / Getty Images

Picking an obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) doctor to deliver your baby is an important part of your pregnancy journey. Sometimes, you may already have an OB/GYN that you plan to use before you get pregnant (or decide to start trying for a baby). In this case, you can likely just stick with that person. Other times, when you don't already have a healthcare provider you feel comfortable with, you'll need to find one, sometimes quickly so that you can begin your prenatal care.

For some people, finding a great OB/GYN or another prenatal and birthing medical practitioner is as easy as getting referrals from family members, trusted friends, or their other healthcare providers. But sometimes, the search can be a bit more challenging.

For example, Amy Thery, a mother of two boys, struggled to find the right provider to deliver her second baby. With her first pregnancy, she simply used the fabulous OB/GYN her sister recommended, who turned out to be a fantastic match for her. However, she ended up having to find a new provider, in a new city, in the middle of her second pregnancy.

"I moved across the country when I was 35 weeks pregnant," says Thery, who relocated from New York City to San Francisco for a new job, and now lives in Zurich with her family of four. "Finding a new OB/GYN who would accept me as a patient was extremely difficult, let alone finding one that I was comfortable with and who would honor my birth plan. It seemed very daunting. Although the clock was ticking, I interviewed several clinics and practitioners until I found the perfect fit!"

Here, learn more about how to find the best OB/GYN for your pregnancy journey.

How to Choose an OB/GYN for Your Pregnancy

There are many things to think about when selecting a medical provider for your prenatal care and childbirth. These considerations include the healthcare provider's medical philosophy and approach, personality, cost, location, birthing options, and hospital affiliations, It's also key to consider any special medical needs you have in terms of your health and pregnancy. Moreover, you'll want to find someone that you can connect with and trust in this journey toward becoming a parent.

"Choosing an OB/GYN is a very personal decision. The doctor-patient relationship is built on mutual trust; it requires that you trust your doctor and likewise that your doctor can trust you," explains Megan Gray, MD, OB/GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates in Florida. 

This is a decision that many expecting parents put a lot of thought into, often seeking to feel welcomed, comfortable, heard, and understood by their chosen provider. A strong feeling that the healthcare provider is capable, trustworthy, compassionate, and aligned with any particular birth plan you have is important to many people as well. In fact, studies show that selecting their ideal OB/GYN is usually prioritized over other factors like choice of hospital or rates of cesarean section (C-section).

When searching for the right OB/GYN Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD suggests assessing your OB/GYN practice as a group, in the case that your initial doctor is not who shows up in the delivery room. "Patients may be surprised to learn that even though they see the same practitioner for prenatal visits, that practitioner may not be the one delivering," says Dr. Dweck. "Some practices ask patients to rotate clinicians during prenatal visits for this reason. There's nothing wrong with this but it is best to set realistic expectations."

Ultimately, you will evaluate multiple factors and possibly interview a variety of practitioners until you find the one that is the best fit for your needs. Use this guide to help you select the right OB/GYN for your pregnancy and delivery.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

First and foremost, you'll want to check on your insurance coverage so that you know which medical providers and birthing options are available to you and will be the most economical. You can find this out by either calling your insurance carrier directly or by looking on their website. Doing this step first helps you narrow down your search to those who take your insurance.

"I went through my insurance to see who was covered as far as OB/GYNs and then did research online to see who had the best reviews," says Bella Morrelli, mother of a toddler and a soon-to-be-delivered baby, who lives in Las Vegas.

From there, you can call potential doctors to confirm that they take your insurance plan and find out how many visits are recommended and much you will pay out of pocket, as this may vary widely. If you need insurance or help to pay for care, contact your county health department or other medical providers for assistance and referrals for low-cost or free medical care.

Availability and Location

Note that not all medical providers will be taking new patients, so if you're new to a clinic, you'll need to make sure that the healthcare provider you're interested in is accepting more patients. Additionally, if you're already pregnant and know your approximate due date, check that the provider you are considering expects to be available during the time you're likely to give birth. You'll also want to find out who takes their place for the delivery if your healthcare provider is not available.

Also, make sure that the healthcare provider you're interested in has admitting privileges at the hospital nearest you (or the one you most want to go to). Location matters as when you go into labor. You may have many or just a few hours (or minutes) to get to the hospital in time for safe delivery. So, be sure to consider the practitioners and birthing centers that are nearest to you. Also, note that you will have many appointments, so you'll want someone convenient to both your home and work.

Type of Medical Provider You Want

While many people go with an OB/GYN for their prenatal care and delivery, there are a variety of other options. Other medical providers to consider include a midwife, family doctor, labor and delivery nurse, and maternal-fetal medicine specialist. For low-risk pregnancies, a midwife or labor and delivery nurse may be a great option, particularly for those that want more hands-on care and are hoping to have a birth with fewer medical or invasive interventions.

"Individuals with high-risk pregnancies should be managed by an OB/GYN physician," says Dr. Gray.

Higher-risk pregnancies may require more specialized care, possibly including working with a maternal-fetal medicine doctor. You'll want to think about the type of birth you're planning, such as using an epidural at a hospital, delivering at a birthing center, or doing a natural or home birth. Then, research the medical providers, hospital labor and delivery departments, and birthing center options near you to find the options that resonate most with what you're looking for.

"Midwives usually have their own patients and either work with a specific physician group or have certain physicians as back up if concerns arise," says Robin Brown, MD, FACOG, obstetrician-gynecologist in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Doulas and labor and delivery nurses are other options patients can choose in conjunction with prenatal care, says Dr. Brown.

Bedside Manner and Approach to Prenatal Care

It is important to find an OB/GYN that you connect with and feel confident in to deliver your baby. Pregnancy and childbirth can feel overwhelming at times, everything does not always go as planned, and sometimes complications arise that require more intricate care and complicated decisions to be made. While it's likely that everything will go well in your pregnancy, it's crucial to find a practitioner whose medical approach and judgment you trust.

Be sure to talk to any doctor you are considering about all aspects of pregnancy and the delivery, including your preferred delivery course. Having this conversation early on helps ensure that everyone is aligned during the later stages of the pregnancy and childbirth itself, recommends Dr. Brown.

Get to know your potential healthcare provider's typical approach to prenatal care and childbirth. Studies show that the OB/GYN's birth-related philosophy and training greatly impact pain management and rates of C-sections, episiotomy, perineum tears, and induction.

Some providers spend more time with patients and provide more hands-on care. Some are more or less supportive of various pain management techniques, such as natural childbirth or using epidurals. Others may be more or less likely to embrace your birth plan. Some healthcare providers recommend more prenatal testing, such as ultrasounds or amniocentesis, and/or call for more or fewer activity restrictions than others.

"I loved my doctor I decided on. He was super knowledgeable and patient at all of our appointments. He let me ask as many questions as I wanted and used representations to explain what I was feeling," says Morrelli.

Tips for Finding Providers

Once you know your best options in terms of cost, type of practitioner, location, and approach, you'll want to narrow down your search. Use these tips to help you find the best medical provider for you.

Look Before Getting Pregnant

While not always possible, it's ideal to look for your OB/GYN before you get pregnant. This way you have time to research as much as you need and meet with a variety of practitioners without feeling the pressure of needing to start your prenatal care right away. Additionally, once you choose your provider, you can meet with them to discuss any prenatal lifestyle changes or medical care that might be needed, such as changing or discontinuing certain medications and not drinking alcohol.

Ask about any issues that concern you and discuss any preferences and questions you have when you interview prospective medical providers, suggests Thery, who also recommends going with your instincts when choosing your healthcare provider.

Research Online

By looking online, you can easily find out which providers and other medical providers are on your insurance plan and located near you, You can do this by going to your insurance plan website and/or looking at websites of local medical providers and hospital labor and delivery departments to see which plans they accept. You can also call their offices to get this information.

Additionally, a simple internet search of the prospective medical provider's name may lead you to reviews of that person's care from past patients and other sources. "I would suggest to do your research before and not be scared to switch doctors if you feel it isn’t the right fit or if they are not listening to you," advises Morrelli.

Ask Family and Friends

Another great source for finding a provider you click with is to ask your family, friends, and other medical care providers you trust for recommendations, advises Dr. Brown.

Getting a referral can be especially effective when the person you ask shares a similar viewpoint about prenatal care and childbirth. For instance, if your friend loved their healthcare provider but chose a very different birth plan from what you are wanting, then that practice may not be the best fit for you. However, if your plans and philosophy align well with theirs, it could be a good match.

"Just because all of your friends go to a certain doctor doesn’t always mean that person will be the right fit for you," says Dr. Gray.

Interview Potential Providers

In addition to calling to screen various providers on practical matters like insurance coverage, clinic practices, and typical standards and approaches to care, you can also go into their offices to interview them. Talking to a potential OB/GYN or other practitioners is a great way to determine your comfort level with the office in general and the healthcare providers, midwives, and/or nurses in particular who you may be working with.

"Important aspects to consider are the obstetrics care for the nine months and the delivery care. Again, reputation and referrals can be helpful in this respect," advises Dr. Brown.

Be sure to ask any questions you have and to soak in the environment and "vibe" of their clinic. Questions to ask yourself, says Dr. Gray, include the following: Do you feel welcomed and comfortable here? Are the office staff friendly and helpful? How long do you have to wait to be seen? How long does the medical practitioner spend with you? Are they open to your questions and do they provide answers that resonate positively with you? Do you feel heard and empowered by the relationship?

"Having a good rapport with your doctor is so important," says Thery, who recommends interviewing potential providers in-person before making your decision. Taking the time for a face-to-face conversation and seeing them in action in their office is the best way to know if it's a great fit, explains Thery.

"The best way to determine compatibility is to visit with the doctor, engage in candid conversation and ask questions," agrees Dr. Gray. "They each come with their own personality that may or may not jive with yours and that is OK."

A Word From Verywell

Finding an OB/GYN or another medical practitioner to care for you during your pregnancy is an important step in making sure you have a healthy pregnancy, appropriate prenatal care, and the best possible delivery experience. Know that there are a lot of great choices of healthcare providers out there who can deliver excellent care. Choosing the right one is really about picking the one that feels right to you.

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6 Sources
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