Pregnancy: Interviewing Your Doctor

The doctor's experience

What Questions Should I Ask?

Here we list some questions to ask the doctor when interviewing him, and then give you how the doctor should (or should not) answer the questions.

After Dr. John responds (in italics) how he would answer the question with his patients, then he tells you what you should look for in the responses of your doctors.

1. How long have you been delivering babies?

My response is that I have been delivering babies for over 10 years.

However, there is no magic number here. Obviously, a doctor who has been practicing three years will probably have fewer babies delivered than one who has practiced 20 years. But again, that is not always the case. For example, you may have a doctor who only delivers a few babies a year vs. one who delivers all the time. On the positive side, the doctor who has only delivered a few will probably spend more time with you. On the negative side, he probably hasn't seen as many complications as a doctor who delivers more frequently. This is a subjective answer, depending on what you're looking for. My suggestion is that you look for someone who has the experience that you're comfortable with as a patient. You want to make sure that the doctor you're entrusting your pregnancy to has the right amount of experience to handle your case.

2. How many babies have you delivered?

Personally, I have delivered over 800 babies, but I worked at a military hospital where I saw a lot of patients.

Also, keep in mind that while a new doctor may not have delivered as many babies in her practice, she may have delivered quite a few as a resident. Again, this answer is similar to the one above. Not an exact number, but someone who has delivered 100 babies or more probably has some experience, rather than someone who has delivered fewer than 10. What is your comfort zone, i.e., the answer that gives you comfort? It's subjective and differs from one patient to another. Basically, what you want is a doctor who has had some experience and can handle problems with confidence and competence.

3. Do you have a preference for obstetrics or gynecology?

In my case, I like both – I like a balance. I like taking care of pregnant women and delivering babies, and I also enjoy women's health care in general.

Usually, OB/GYNs do have their preferences. Often, a doctor will decide to just pursue gynecological patients after a stint at delivery. Delivering babies at all hours does impede on a doctor's home life, so there is a high burnout rate. Also, if a doctor chooses a specialty such as high-risk OB, she probably likes it more.

Obviously, some OB/GYNs have a good balance in their practice and enjoy covering both areas. But there are some doctors who would rather do more gynecology than obstetrics. Asking the question, depending on the answer you receive, may let you know if the doctor is someone you want to follow your pregnancy. Another good reason is that if you want to have more children and you find out that your doctor is getting out of delivery soon, you might want to start with another doctor who will last through all your pregnancies.

4. What percentage of your deliveries is C-section?

My percentage of C-sections is probably around 18%.

This question should be answered with a percentage figure because you will probably not get exact numbers. In the U. S. we are seeing an increasing trend for babies to be delivered by C-section. That figure will probably get higher. Currently, the average number of C-sections is 22 24% in the U.S.

If your doctor quotes a higher percentage for C-sections or complications, it may not mean that he has a preference for doing that surgery, but rather that he has more high-risk patients. However, if your doctor follows relatively uncomplicated patients in his practice and has a higher percentage rate than the national average, you might want to follow up your question with "why."

What you want to find out is if your doctor is going to recommend a C-section for you in circumstances that are equal with another doctor who might choose to do a vaginal delivery. In general, C-sections carry more risk for the patient and baby; however, there are times when it is necessary and the risks of a C-section are outweighed by the risks of a vaginal delivery.

excerpted from:

Reproduced from Absolute Beginner's Guide to Pregnancy, by John Adams and Marta Justak, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing. Please visit Amazon to order your own copy.

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