How to choose where to give birth
When you're expecting a baby, the key isn't just finding the best OBGYN and hospital – it's finding the best OBGYN and hospital for you.
When you're expecting a baby, choosing where to give birth is among the first and most important decisions you will make. Naturally, you want to make the perfect choice, but the key isn't just finding the best OBGYN and hospital – it's finding the best OBGYN and hospital for you.
We all have different healthcare needs, values and goals when it comes to maternity care and any of those factors could affect a person's prenatal and childbirth plans. Given the amount of time you'll spend with your provider from bump to baby, you should feel confident that they will carry out those plans in the best interest of you and your child.
Keep in mind, however, that the place where you receive care matters just as much as the person who provides it, and when you choose an OBGYN, you're also choosing a hospital. Many physicians only have admitting privileges at one or two facilities, so finding an OBGYN you like who practices at a hospital you like is essential.
For help with finding the perfect combination of OBGYN and hospital, consider the following guidance.
Choosing the best hospital for you
Though many pregnant people might research OBGYNs before hospitals, you might consider taking a broader approach. By envisioning where you would want to be when your baby comes, you'll ultimately be led to the right hospital and the right physician.
Decide what's important to you
"There are many factors that you may want to explore before looking at doctors," said James T. Christmas, MD, Medical Director of Women's and Obstetrics Services at HCA Healthcare Clinical Services Group. "Geography is a big part of it: Where do you live and how far away are your nearest hospitals? The niceness and amenities of delivery and postpartum rooms can also make a big difference to some people, as can the reputation of the hospital."
Other considerations matter too, such as whether the facility has the medical infrastructure required for the individual needs of you and your baby. Looking at a hospital's subspecialists, such as cardiologists and neonatologists, can help you understand what kind of advanced care you could expect if you or your baby need it.
"A lot of healthy patients start out with very uncomplicated pregnancies that become complicated," Dr. Christmas said. "It's good to ask about a facility's capabilities on the pediatric side and nursery as well as within internal medicine to make sure it's a hospital environment where there's a lot of specialist support."
Consider the hospital's care philosophy
Does a given hospital align with your wants and needs? You should have a sense of this before you select it as your place of care.
"It's important to know what their model is for taking care of the baby after birth," said Sue Cadwell, assistant vice president of women's and obstetrics services at HCA Healthcare. "Do they exclusively have you room in with your baby, or do they have the option of taking the baby to a nursery if you need a break? And how do you feel about being there? How do you feel about your baby being there?"
All of these factors and others (like insurance coverage) can influence your choice of hospital, so tour facilities, schedule consultations, ask questions and consider others' experiences and reviews before deciding.
How to choose an OBGYN
Once you've settled on a hospital, Dr. Christmas recommends starting your search for a practice or physician who delivers there next.
Think about your practitioner's personality
Consider what you want from your prenatal care. Would you prefer someone who's all business, or do you want a more personal approach?
"You should try to find a practice type that's a match for your preferences," Dr. Christmas said. "Some patients want very individualized and comprehensive care and those are going to be very different practitioners from someone who prefers a more relaxed relationship with their provider."
Consider the OBGYN's care model
You'll want to ask about the physician or practice group's care model as well. Who will be attending your prenatal appointments, and who will be there during birth? Will you have an opportunity to meet all the physicians before delivery? Will you become familiar with everyone who might be on call when you go into labor?
You can find this information through online and in-person research, which may include checking sites like Healthgrades, learning about cesarean rates and meeting providers for preconception or prenatal consultations.
Find an OBGYN that supports your unique pregnancy
As you're exploring your options, consider your health history. Do you have a preexisting condition that might raise your risk of complications? Would risk factors such as obesity or advanced maternal age apply?
Finding someone who can support your specific needs is critical, so ask providers whether they have experience with patients like you. This may require finding an obstetrician who is different from your regular gynecologist.
The experiences of friends and family can also help but with a catch:
"We do have to remember that we all have different needs and desires about our medical care," Dr. Christmas said. "A 26-year-old marathoner's pregnancy experience may be different from that of a 37-year-old with chronic hypertension, so you have to consider it from a more personalized place."
Be patient with the process
Finding the right OBGYN and hospital may involve some trial and error. You may not like the first options you see, and that's okay. It's better to know early on so that you can explore different options that may suit your goals better.
"There's nothing wrong with meeting a prospective obstetrician or touring a facility and then saying: 'You know, this isn't a good fit.'" Dr. Christmas said. "You should be comfortable with your healthcare and childbirth choices and find a provider you can trust."