Finding a Health-Care Provider
Once you've decided what kind of health-care provider you want to work with during your pregnancy and for your birth, you need to actually find one with whom you feel comfortable. Get a few names and then meet with several providers to determine which one is right for you.
To obtain names to consider, talk to friends and family or ask your primary-care provider or gynecologist. You can also get a list of participating providers from your health-insurance company. Another option is to contact an organization such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (
Once you have some names, you may wish to check with your state medical board to determine if there are any grievances against the provider. Next, make an appointment with your top three picks. Go to the appointment with a list of questions that will help you determine how well the provider meets your needs. You may want to ask about things like these:
Hospitals or birth centers where the provider delivers
Other providers in the practice and on-call coverage
Whether there is a different approach taken for women over 35
Availability of prenatal appointment times and dates
If the provider is a midwife, you should also find out what doctors are associated with the practice and how available they are should they be needed.
Another important factor when choosing an obstetrical caretaker, specifically a physician, is credentials. Many states have Web sites that document a physician's credentials, education, board certification, and years in training. Litigation history is also generally available. Just because a physician has been sued does not imply incompetence. In some cases a physician's malpractice insurance company may decide to settle a lawsuit for financial reasons only, since the settlement may well be less than the cost of defending the case. However, multiple suits in a short period of time with large settlements may suggest a problem. In addition, temporary loss of license, restriction of practice, or probation may be warning signs.
Board certification is an important topic. Midwifery, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, and maternal-fetal medicine all have certification processes. Young physicians who are only a few years out of residency training may not yet have their certification since it takes several years to achieve. They may be excellent physicians; you should inquire if they are in a group practice or have a more experienced colleague available should they run into difficulty.
In obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine, most physicians achieve board certification within three to five years after residency or fellowship training, respectively. Most medical boards now issue time-limited certifications, requiring some form of recertification every six to ten years. Board certification is not a guarantee of good care. However, if a physician who has been out of training for some time does not have her board certification, it may raise some red flags.