Once you know the plan for every visit, interactions with your ob/gyn may seem routine. But negotiating the finer points of medical care with a doctor can be intimidating. Here’s how to keep your cool and resolve common difficulties.
You’re embarrassed to open up
At the first prenatal visit, your ob/gyn will expect you to reveal all sorts of intimate details, like whether you smoke, drink, or have had an abortion. But your doc is not trying to pry into your life. By being up front about your medical history and current habits, you give your doctor vital information about how to help you have a healthy pregnancy. Not comfortable chatting about a sensitive issue now? Bring it up with your doctor as soon as you can. Don’t be embarrassed: He or she has probably heard it before. Also, rest assured that everything you say will be kept confidential.
You end up waiting forever to see your doctor
Granted, the nature of the job sometimes means rushing to a delivery during office hours, but if your ob/gyn is chronically behind schedule, speak up. Meanwhile, minimize your annoyance by calling before an appointment and asking for a real-time estimate of when you should check in. Or ask to be seen by a nurse practitioner, who can perform most of the standard checks without the wait. Bruxanne Hein, a mother of four from Surfside Beach, SC, deals with the long waits at her ob/gyn’s solo practice by scheduling appointments early in the morning so she misses less time at work.
Your doctor’s advice isn’t what you’re hearing from your best friend
“I can already tell you my greatest wish: that women would believe me when I tell them something, rather than relying on the often false advice of friends or family,” says Dr. Fink. “For example: ‘My mother told me I can’t use any treatment for hemorrhoids.’ Or, ‘Everyone with an epidural gets a C-section, and most end up with a permanent back injury.’ Or, ‘I can’t exercise, I’m pregnant!’ I heard all of these today alone!” While it’s fine to get opinions from other moms, trust your board- certified ob/gyn to give you the medical perspective, which is often more reliable than wives’ tales.
You feel so rushed that you only remember questions after you leave the office.
If your doctor seems stressed out, it’s probably because he or she is. “I won’t tell someone I have two people in labor and I need to get through this appointment quickly, but it may be the case,” admits David DeFilippis, M.D., an ob/gyn at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Huntington Valley, PA. His advice: Write down your questions beforehand, then fire away while your ob/gyn listens to your baby’s heartbeat and measures your belly, rather than waiting until the very end of the appointment, when your doc is antsy to leave.
Your ob/gyn wants you to have a test that you’re nervous about
If the test is non-negotiable, your doctor will— and should—put her foot down. “For instance, if you say, ‘I don’t want to do that diabetic test because my friend did it and she got really dizzy’—well, that’s not an option,” says Dr. Fink. But a few tests, such as amniocentesis, are voluntary, so ask your ob/gyn to explain why she’s recommending it, what the possible side effects are, and if there are alternative options, such as a level II ultrasound.
You have some weird cramping or spotting, but you’re not sure if you should call
“Patients are worried about bothering their doctor, but I tell them, I’d rather you call me on an evening or weekend than on Monday morning, so we can work through your problems at an earlier date, rather than when things get worse,” says Jennifer Wu, M.D., an ob/gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Worries about bleeding or fetal movement, persistent contractions, or your water breaking are all good reasons to give your ob/gyn a ring. But even if you think it’s nothing serious, call. A nurse can probably answer your question (and give you advice on what to do next time).
Your doctor refuses to look at your birth plan or discourages your ideas about how you want to give birth
Chalk it up, in part, to superstition: some ob/gyns see a rigid birth plan as a surefire way to end up with the opposite of what you hoped for. “If a patient says, ‘Listen, I’ve got a birth plan, and I want it to go this way,’ I’m very up front with them,” says Dr. DeFilippis. “I’ll say, ‘I have the same plan: I want you to have the easiest labor in the world, but it doesn’t always go that way.’” Use your birth plan as a door to discussing its most important elements, including pain control and emergency interventions.
Then, if your doctor seems less than thrilled about your preferences, consider whether you’d feel better with a more supportive practitioner. Stacy Quarty, the Southampton, NY–based author of Frankly Pregnant, thought she had been clear about wanting a vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC). But when she was in labor, she had to beg to keep her ob/gyn from rushing her into surgery. “There are plenty of ob/gyn fish in the sea,” says Dr. Fink. “If you don’t like your doctor, then find another one.”