Fly On The Wall (Part 1): Choosing An Obstetrician
In this three-part podcast, we capture the candid conversation of three women on their obstetrics experiences . Part 1 delves into choosing an obstetrician.
Stream Part 1 above, download and listen by clicking here, or read the transcript below.
Kadesha: Last year sometime, three of us had this bright idea to have a second child all at the same time. Aneesa, you have an 8-year-old; Lauren, a 5-year-old; and I have, at the time he was 1 when we made this decision? And I honestly think that when we decided “Hey, you know what? Let’s all just try to get pregnant together. We can support each other and help each other and when the kids are older babysit for each other,” I’m pretty sure I got pregnant that week.
Lauren: Me too.
Kadesha: Then shortly after, Lauren decided to share on Gchat that she was pregnant. And then Aneesa, you were also pregnant. And now that all of our kids are born and out, I want to talk about our experiences with that. Let’s start with the doctors, and our experience with the obstetricians.
I know both of you chose your doctors because I basically gave you recommendations. But what was your process before then for trying to find a doctor? Lauren, you go first. What was your process for trying to find an obstetrician when you first knew that you would be getting pregnant?
What To Look For In An Obstetrician
Lauren: My challenge was the obstetrician I’ve had my whole life is the same one that actually delivered me, and she’s amazing and still practicing and I was still going to her. But her practice is over an hour away. So we started to analyze, ok we’re going to have a baby, which means I’m going to have to go to the doctor every couple weeks, and at the end I’m going to have to go once a week. Driving from Oak Park to Chicago Heights was not an option. I was worried about going into labor and having to get all the way out to Chicago Heights to deliver.
I asked the women in my life for referrals. Some things that were important to me were obviously convenience. I didn’t want a doctor that was super far away or one that I’d have to take the entire day off work to go for a visit. I wanted someone who was really convenient to both my job and my home.
It was important to me where they practice medicine—what hospital were they affiliated with? I like a practice with multiple doctors in it. I looked at their credentials, what medical schools did they go to, how long have they been practicing medicine?
I like a place with a full list of services included in one practice, so I don’t have to go to multiple specialists and get a bunch of referrals. I want kind of a one-stop shop.
And obviously good ratings and reviews. Then there’s also that personal connection you have with the doctor where you walk in the office and you feel comfortable and they listen to you when you tell them your concerns. That was really important to me as well.
When it’s your second child, you know something. So I think my pet peeve is always when doctors—although they are medical professionals, they do know more than you do—but when you have your own preferences, I like to be heard. So we can have a conversation about a recommendation in terms of my care, but don’t override me because you feel like you know better.
All of those kind of things in a nutshell, helped me pick the physician that I ended up going with.
Kadesha: Good. So you mentioned that you wanted several doctors in the same practice. Tell me a little bit about that, because I think for me and Aneesa, we were like, we want to try to stick with the same doctor as much as possible. We really don’t want to be circling through.
One practice that we looked at had nine different obstetricians, and you could end up with any of them at any of your appointments and when you were in labor. I think I was a little turned off by that. Tell me what made you say you wanted multiple doctors in a practice.
Lauren: Nine is a bit much for me as well. At my current practice, there are four obstetricians. For me, when I delivered my first child, I had one obstetrician, but it was a similar practice where there were four or five different doctors in rotation. If you went into labor early or if your doctor wasn’t available, you’d already met that physician and you were comfortable with them. Whoever showed up, you knew and they honored your wishes, they followed your birth plan, and it was kind of a team effort.
I didn’t mind having multiple doctors because at this practice it was the same deal. I’d met all of the physicians that could possibly deliver my baby, and they all understood my birth plan. I was friendly with them, so they weren’t total strangers. I liked the idea of if you show up to the hospital, you know who is going to deliver your baby if you show up unscheduled. When you have a physician practice that has multiple physicians, you’re more likely to get a physician from that practice showing up vs. having to pick whatever resident is on call at the hospital. You know, if your doctor is on vacation, I wanted to know the back-up plan.
Kadesha: Alright. Aneesa, what about you? Like I said, I pretty much gave recommendations for who I was going to or who I had a good experience with, but how did you end up picking the obstetrician you went with for your baby?
Aneesa: For some of the same reasons that Lauren stated. I had a current OB, but she only had one hospital option in terms of delivering, and it was out in Hinsdale. I just wasn’t familiar with the area, had never been to that hospital or anything like that. When I started looking for someone else, like you said, I did ask you, and I pretty much figured that if you recommended this person, I’m in good hands. That was a big part of it, just trusting your recommendation. Pretty much that’s how I like to do all my medical care.
I rarely will go blind and just pick a random doctor. I’m always asking “Who do your kids go to? Who do you see for such and such?” I’m asking people that I trust because it’s just comforting to know that someone that you know goes to this person and trusts them and likes the care that they provide.
Ultimately, another reason was that I wanted to deliver specifically at Elmhurst Hospital, and when I found out that the doctor you recommended had just recently partnered with Elmhurst, that was a blessing. And then my other hospital option, with my insurance and everything, was a hospital called West Suburban, which was actually right down the street from my house. Although that hospital wasn’t my first choice, it was still comforting that it was so close to where I lived. I knew that either way, I would be at the hospital I really wanted to be at, or if needed, I could go to the hospital that was super close to my home. So all of those things, but for me personally, a recommendation from a friend has a lot of weight when choosing medical care.
Kadesha: For me, I got those recommendations from another recommendation—Sharon. She was a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital where I wanted to deliver. Any place she told me to go, I was going to go because I knew that she had worked with these obstetricians before. She knew what they were like, and she also has very high standards about medical care being a nurse. I trusted her judgement. Before though, with trying to just find an obstetrician on my own, I was looking online, and it was a terrible experience.
Aneesa: I agree with you because I think without knowing anything, I felt very uncertain without asking somebody, “Who did you go to?” As you already said, my son is 8, and when we had him, we were living in another state, so we didn’t have any ties to we’ve been with this particular doctor or practice for years. When it came to having a baby, we were just starting all over in terms of finding the right doctor. It was definitely comforting to have a recommendation.
Keeping Close To Home
Kadesha: Absolutely. But then even after the recommendation, I’ll agree with you guys: The first thing I’m going to look at is how close is this doctor to my house? Because my worst nightmare of life is to be stuck in traffic in labor. I was like, how close? How close is this doctor? How close is the hospital where I’ll be delivering? And if it requires me getting on the expressway, the answer is no.
Lauren: For me, for my first daughter, we also delivered her out of state. But my doctor was 15 minutes maybe from both my office and my house. When you have to do those frequent doctor appointments while you’re pregnant, the question is do you want to take the day off or the afternoon off? Do you want to go on your lunch break or at the end of the day?
I didn’t want to waste time—my PTO and my sick time—to go to the doctor for 20 minutes or an hour. I wanted to have it in a place like literally, when I work from home on Friday, I take my lunch and go for my prenatal appointment and be home in time to make myself a sandwich and get back on a conference call. For me, it just needed to be something where I could continue on with my life. Having a baby is a big decision that will suck up a lot of time anyway, so I felt like the prep work should not take up that much time.
Aneesa: The practice I was at, I was able to pretty much always have an evening appointment so I didn’t have to take off of work. The only time, I think twice, I had to go during the day awas when I was down to the weekly appointments. Of course, when you’re scheduling that close together, sometimes the doctor’s schedule just isn’t as flexible as opposed to when you’re scheduling a month or two weeks out in the beginning. But again, I think only twice I had to take a couple hours from work. All the other times, I was able to go in the evenings, so that was really important to me, too.
Kadesha: All right, so you all already started talking about going to the doctor. Let’s talk about your prenatal visit. Like you said, you start going once a month, then every two weeks, then every week. How were your prenatal visits for you? Did you like them? Did you feel like they were helpful? Aneesa, let’s start with you.
Aneesa: I thought mine were very, very helpful. My doctor, Dr. Acharya, he was very attentive I felt, and that was—I think Lauren, you had mentioned it. You wanted to be somewhere where you felt like they gave you attention, and I know with my last son, I did experience where I felt rushed sometimes. I was a first-time mom at that time, a mom-to-be. I felt like it was 10, 15 minutes, and then they were trying to get you out of there to see the next person. But with this particular doctor, I felt like he always took the time to answer questions.
After he saw you in the exam room, he would bring you to his office and sit you in his chair. He would explain things to you, answer your questions. He, in my opinion, was very cautious. When he thought I was gaining too much weight or he had concerns about other things, he always aired on the side of caution to make sure I was healthy and the baby was healthy. So I definitely think the prenatal visits were very helpful.
I think this time around, I probably didn’t have as many questions as I did with being a first-time mom. But I know had this been my first pregnancy, I really feel like I would’ve appreciated going to this practice and this doctor even more. I do feel like he was very attentive and willing to answer questions, and I felt like he actually cared about me.
That shouldn’t sound weird, but sometimes when you’re seeing doctors it does sound weird because we probably have all experienced times when it doesn’t really feel like they care about you. He’d show us pictures of his family, and he told us different stories of his family. He would joke and laugh and things like that. That personal connection made me feel even more comfortable, especially when you have to bare all on an exam table week after week.
Kadesha: (Laughs) Right. Now, honestly, with Dr. Acharya—Aneesa, you and I had the same OB this last time around, and Lauren, you and I had the same OB for my first child. But there’s two things I loved about Dr. Acharya. Number one: When you go in his office, he makes it feel like not only does he care about you, but he made my husband feel like such a good part of the process. He was including him, asking him questions. It wasn’t just like he was some observer. He really made my husband feel like, “OK, we’re a team. We have to get this done. We have to do this right.”
Aneesa: I agree with you on that. My husband was only able to come to two or three doctor visits with me. But when he did come, I feel like he had the same experience where, it was actually completely different with my first son. They kind of ignored my husband throughout the whole entire process and when he was in the delivery room. They assumed that he was my boyfriend actually.
Kadesha: Oh wow.
Aneesa: This time around, even my husband, Charles, really liked Dr. Acharya.
Kadesha: Yeah, Kelly loved Dr. Acharya. He would shake his hand, and they would talk about something, and I’d be like, “Hello? I’m on the table here naked. Can we get this over with?” But I like that he included Kelly in all of our visits and made him a part of the conversation. The other thing I love about Dr. Acharya is that the man is just an expert. You can tell that when it comes to delivering babies, he does it in his sleep. He is more accurate than the test in a lot of cases.
Aneesa: I remember he predicted my baby’s weight, and it was right. He was like, “Your kid is going to be about 8 lbs., 4 oz.” My kid was 8 lbs., 4 oz. Charles was amazed that Dr. Acharya, just by a couple pokes on my stomach, was like “The baby’s head is here; his feet are here. He’s this, he’s that.” I’m like, “Oh, Lord.”
Kadesha: You know that time I went, and it was my first visit with him, he felt around on my stomach, he was like, “I think you’re about eight and a half weeks.”
I go to get the ultrasound for the gestational age, and they’re like, “No, you’re 13 weeks.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about? 13 weeks? Oh my goodness.” I thought I was crazy not knowing I was pregnant for that long.
Then Dr. Acharya was like, “No, the ultrasound is wrong. We’re going to send you somewhere else to get one.” He knew that just by touching my stomach. I was amazed at how much of an expert he is at doing this. I felt really comfortable with him.
Lauren, what about you? How did your prenatal visits go? Did you feel like they were helpful? Did you like them? What would you change about them?
Appreciating Prenatal Appointments
Lauren: I liked them a lot. I thought they were really helpful. I always felt kind of bad, though. As a second-time mom, I didn’t have any questions. I was uneventful for most of my pregnancy. My blood pressure was better than most of the nursing staff, which was the highlight of every visit. It was uneventful I’ll say, but I mean, that’s what you want. You want to be uneventful.
I loved the nursing staff with my doctor, and even my doctors were really good at making me feel included and my husband Sean included when he came. I also liked that their office had a very experienced ultrasound technician and an ultrasound room on site. In the event, for example, my daughter, they thought she was trending a little big. They did the ultrasound just to make sure everything was okay.
It was all in the same spot, so the doctor and the ultrasound tech talked, and they sent them off for analysis. Then, we could have a conversation with the right people in the room relatively quickly instead of do the ultrasound, come back in a couple weeks and figure it out. It was a much faster and efficient process I thought, which was good because I think the worst thing ever is when they tell you something may be wrong and then you have to wait two weeks to figure out what it is, and then you have to wait another two weeks to figure out if it really is what they say it is. And then they can’t figure out why you’re blood pressure is high, so….
Kadesha: (Laughs) Right.
Lauren: I’ve been waiting in angst for four weeks! So I really appreciated that about my prenatal visits. Everything was really seamless.
The doctors asked me all the questions I want. Dr. Whitmore is actually the doctor that delivered me, and she sat down with me and talked to me about whatever I wanted to talk about. I weighed the options of having a c-section vs. a VBAC [vaginal birth after cesarean], and she talked to me about the risks and advantages and what would be different. She really took her time and helped me understand what that meant for me and my baby. That was really important to me.
Especially if you’ve already had a c-section, a lot of doctors are like, “Why even try to do VBAC?” And I was like, “Well, let’s talk about it.”
So she looked at my medical records, and we really went through it, and it was really a thorough conversation. I really appreciated that kind of stuff. We talked about a lot of things post-baby like getting my tubes tied. We talked about if I had an ultrasound and something looked strange or weird or she was measuring differently or moving differently. I always had a lot of time to spend with the staff to figure out exactly what that meant, so that was reassuring.
Kadesha: The visits were definitely helpful.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this series, when the women discuss their hospital stays and the realities of breastfeeding.
Choosing An OB: 5 Questions That Helped Me Decide
When you find out you’re pregnant, you suddenly have about a million decisions to make.
When do family and friends find out? Nursing or bottle feeding? How about the nursery decor? What names are in the running?
But actually, before answering any of those, one of the very first decisions to make should be choosing an OB, or obstetrician—the physician who monitors the health of both mother and baby.
Here are 5 questions that helped me make the right decision when I was having a baby.
1. What Can I Find Out From Moms I Know?
I was pretty careful with this one. Once you open that box, advice could just start pouring out of the woodwork. To ebb the flow, I asked a select group of women I knew with babies or toddlers some targeted questions about their obstetrician experiences.
What kinds of questions did they ask the doctor to see if he was a good fit? Did they interview several OBs before selecting one? Did they stick with someone they didn’t really like, or did they find matches made in heaven?
Just hearing about someone else’s experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly—can help women be proactive in their search.
Some women also ask their primary care physician for a referral list, and go from there.
2. My Own Health: Is It Complicated?
With serious health issues—whether it’s diabetes, a heart condition, or an issue that involves the reproductive system—experience is a must.
I had a couple of sporadic blood clotting issues in the past, so in choosing an OB, I looked for someone who also had experience treating patients with blood disorders.
3. Do I Even Want An Obstetrician?
For me, the answer was yes. Obstetricians are trained in medical schools, required to complete residencies, and must receive board certification, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
But some women might opt for the more personalized care that a midwife can provide. For women with low-risk pregnancies who want to go the more natural delivery route (think water births at a birthing center and no epidurals), a midwife is certainly a great option.
4. What About Hospital Quality And Doctor’s Office Policies?
Your doctor’s hospital is your hospital, so make sure it’s a good one. Patients at top-rated hospitals are less likely to experience complications, says HealthGrades.com.
I also inquired about the inner-workings and policies at my OB’s practice. I found out about appointment scheduling, hours (and after-hours) available, emergency options, and other factors that determined whether the practice in general was right for me.
For example, in my OB’s office, I learned that I would see one “main” obstetrician exclusively for my prenatal appointments up until week 28.
After that, the office recommended that first-time pregnant women do their own sort of rotations and meet a different OB in the practice every visit. Because you never knew who would be on call the day you gave birth, this helped patients avoid working with a relative stranger the day of delivery.
5. How Is The Physician’s Personality And Communication?
This was a big one for me. I wanted a physician with the right attitude, an overall positive outlook, and who was respectful of my time.
Choosing an OB who listens, answers questions, gets to know their patients, and supports pregnancy and birthing preferences wherever possible is vital to a great patient-doctor relationship.