A prenatal care provider is the medical professional who oversees your care during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Most providers are obstetricians or midwives, but they can also be family practitioners or even a chiropractor.
Ensuring that they are trained and licensed should be a no-brainer, and that’s not what I’m going to talk about here. You absolutely need to trust that they can keep you physically safe during and after labor.
What I’m talking about is the kind of person they are and the kind of support they give you in order to make you feel emotionally safe. As with many other things, it’s crucial to your well-being in this phase that you feel entirely loved and supported. Seriously.
So, when looking for a prenatal care provider, seek out someone who is:
1) Emotionally Supportive
You are an entire woman, not just a body, and the experience you’ll have during birth has as much to do with how safe you feel emotionally as with how well prepared you are. I wouldn’t say I was skeptical of the impact emotional safety can have on labor, but after personally experiencing a stalled labor because of an abrasive OB that made me feel emotionally unsafe, I am a firm believer.
During my third labor, the OB on duty treated me poorly and condescendingly while giving me a speech about all the things that could go wrong during labor and concluded with the thought that she might have to remove my uterus. Whaaaaaat! Yep, baby decided to cool her jets after that last part. Fortunately, labor picked up again when that OB turned over and the new doctor on duty was supportive and in tune with my emotional well-being, not just what my body was doing.
2) Open to discussion and questions
Who knows all the things about pregnancy and birth before starting a family? NO ONE. You’ll have questions. You’ll have a lot of questions! And your preferences for birth will develop as you research labor, breastfeeding, and infant bonding. Your provider should be open to the questions you have and patiently answer them with objective concerns and options. They don’t have to agree with all your preferences. Remember, they are a member on YOUR birth team; they are not giving birth, you are.
3) On the same page
Ideally, you and your provider will have similar sentiments and values when it comes to birth. Want to do it unmedicated? Don’t choose an OB who caveats all scenarios with the option of a cesarean or induction. Want a planned C-section? Don’t sign on with a super hippie, let’s-give-birth-in-a-field midwife who keeps hoping you’ll go into spontaneous labor before your scheduled surgery. You want your team aligned in most things, but don’t think you’ll have to agree on everything. Shoot for 80% and I think you’ll be fine, as long as respect is still there.
4) Willing to give you options, not pressure
Birth is unpredictable, we all know this. Even if you’ve given birth before, you can’t say how this time will go. This is why we call them birth preferences. Even when labor gets derailed and your original hope is no longer viable, choosing a provider who is going to support your decisions in the moment is far more valuable than a doctor who is going to pressure you because of hospital policy or the way they prefer to do things. Your provider should be willing to give you options before and during labor, but understand that they are not the one making the decisions – YOU are.
Birth trauma is becoming better documented as awareness increases. Often, birth trauma is caused when doctors start making medical decisions for the mother, instead of informing and educating her to make them herself. Your medical care provider is essential for advising you medically, but it is inappropriate for them to decide for you or pressure you into a certain path without medical necessity.
5) Eager to know you
The perinatal phase is a year-long relationship. I’ve been blessed so far with active duty Navy midwives that were eager to get to know me and give me the best care they could. We both looked forward to my appointments to catch up and talk birth! I felt truly cared for; they were simultaneously my medical provider and friend.
Ideally, you will feel a bond with whomever is assisting you in birth. That emotional connection is important, really! Find someone who prioritizes building a relationship, not content just being your medical provider. This paves the way for my point above about establishing emotional security before entering labor and experiencing a truly supported birth.
6) Will accommodate a variety of postpartum care options
If you loath putting your newborn in a car seat to run errands as much as I do, going to see your doctor is no less unpleasant. But there is hope on the horizon. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 736 discusses how medical providers should provide more ways to care for postpartum women other than the traditional office visit.
“Assessment need not occur as an office visit, and the usefulness of an in-person assessment should be weighed against the burden of traveling to and attending an office visit with a neonate. Additional mechanisms for assessing women’s health needs after birth include home visits, phone support, text messages, remote blood pressure monitoring, and app-based support. Phone support during the postpartum period appears to reduce depression scores, improve breastfeeding outcomes, and increase patient satisfaction, although the evidence is mixed.”
Is your provider on board with other options that don’t require you travel to them and tax yourself? You’ve got yourself a winner.
How does Marabou support women?
We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.
Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest.
Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.
With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.
Postpartum doulas for a first time mom
House cleanings for moms of multiples
Childcare for moms with older children!
Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.