Choosing an Obstetrician
Sutter Women's Services
Selecting the doctor who will deliver your baby is a very personal decision. Because both your physical and emotional well-being are vital to your childbirth experience, it’s important to choose an obstetrician with whom you feel comfortable. You’ll see your obstetrician and visit the office several times during your pregnancy, so you’ll also want to choose an office that’s friendly and convenient to your home or work. In addition, you may have special needs, such as diabetes or heart disease, that require the advanced level of care available through our Maternal-Fetal (high-risk pregnancy) Program.
Through Sutter Health and its affiliated hospitals and physicians, you’ll be able to find exactly the right combination of healthcare and personal attention that will help ensure a safe and happy journey through delivery.
The following information will help you better understand the practice of obstetric medicine and offer helpful suggestions on what to think about and look for during your search.
Obstetricians, also called obstetrician-gynecologists or ob/gyns, must complete college, medical school and an additional four-year residency training that enables them to treat all aspects of a woman’s unique health concerns. After training, ob/gyns take a written and oral exam administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology to become board certified. Board certification may be kept up to date through a continuous study program or through a recertification exam taken every six years.
You’ll often see the initial FACOG after an obstetrician’s name, indicating he or she is board certified and has met certain additional requirements to become a Fellow of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). You can find out if an obstetrician is a member of ACOG online at www.acog.org.
Some obstetricians work in subspecialty areas of maternal-fetal medicine (for high-risk pregnancies), reproductive endocrinology (for hormonal issues and infertility), gynecology-oncology (for cancer of the female reproductive organs) and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (care of urinary tract dysfunction and disorders stemming from loss of support of pelvic structures). This subspecialty designation indicates that these physicians have completed several additional years of training and board certification in their area of subspecialization.
The State of California also requires all doctors to be licensed to practice and to complete 25 hours of accredited continuing education each year.
When and how to find an obstetrician | back to top
If the physician you see as your gynecologist (also called an obstetrician/gynecologist or ob/gyn) also delivers babies, you won’t need to find an obstetrician. Many gynecologists today specialize only in women’s general and reproductive health and choose not to deliver babies. In that case, your ob/gyn should be able to recommend an obstetrician whose practice focuses on childbirth.
Another common way to find an obstetrician is to ask friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances for recommendations.
If you have switched insurance plans, decided to find a new ob/gyn, or moved to a new neighborhood and don’t know who to ask, you can access our Physician Locator tool that will provide names of obstetricians located close to your home or work. We also offer a 24-hour referral hotline available seven days a week by calling (800) 4-SUTTER (478-8837).
What to ask when interviewing obstetricians | back to top
Part of having a good childbirth experience is working with an obstetrician you can talk freely with and with whom you feel safe and relaxed. You may want to interview more than one obstetrician until you find one you like and who shares your views on childbirth. If, for example, you feel strongly about natural childbirth, you’ll want to be sure that your obstetrician shares your philosophy toward medication.
Before interviewing prospective obstetricians, prepare a list of questions that cover your major areas of concern. Questions to ask fall into several categories, some of which will be more important to you than to someone else:
- Background and credentials - Our Physician Locator tool lets you look up Sutter-affiliated physicians by name to see a brief biographical sketch, including education, board certification, hospital privileges, special interests and other helpful information. If you have questions, you can also check the status of a physician’s license online at www.medbd.ca.gov. In addition, you might want to ask how long the physician has been in practice in your area and how the obstetrician stays on top of the latest medical developments.
- Personal approach - It’s important that you feel comfortable with your obstetrician’s approach to labor and delivery and to answering the many questions likely to arise during pregnancy. You should feel that you can ask questions you might feel are silly without worrying about how the doctor will respond.
- Prenatal care - Your obstetrician will have a routine procedure for helping you through pregnancy, including a schedule of office visits, timing of any tests, and so on. Find out what that procedure is and if the obstetrician recommends you should have particular tests based on your age and general health. If problems arise that put you in a high-risk category, find out how the doctor deals with that and if/when high-risk pregnancy subspecialists would be called in to assist.
Also find out if childbirth classes are offered through the office or if the obstetrician has classes and teachers to recommend.
- In case of emergency - Though most pregnancies are routine, emergencies can arise. Especially if this is your first child, you will want to know how to reach the doctor in case you suspect something is wrong or you feel you need immediate attention. Make certain you feel comfortable that you will be able to get in touch with your doctor or other obstetrician on call should you have an immediate need.
- Availability during delivery - Unlike other medical practices that can run during regular business hours, babies often come at inconvenient hours and on weekends and holidays. You’ll want to find out if your obstetrician is in solo practice or part of a group practice where the physician on call performs the delivery. To help answer this question, ask what procedures determine who will deliver your baby and what percentage of his or her own patients the obstetrician delivers. If the obstetrician is in solo practice, find out who delivers babies when the doctor is not available.
- Delivery - Special considerations such as vaginal birth after C-sections (VBACs) should be discussed in the preliminary meeting to make sure you are in agreement with the obstetrician’s policy or preference. If the obstetrician offers alternative birthing methods, such as water births available at Sutter Davis Medical Center, ask for information that will allow you to make a decision on the best approach for you.
If you want other family members included in the experience, make certain to ask who the doctor will allow in the delivery room and when your other children or family members can see you and the baby. If you want to take any photographs or videos, also find out the doctor’s policies on what is allowed.
- After delivery - Find out what you can expect after your baby is born. Important concerns include how long your baby will be with you following the birth. If the baby must go to the nursery for checkups, how long will you be separated? Does the hospital offer rooming in for mother and child? When will visitors be allowed to see you alone and with your baby?
- Office procedures - Find out how well your obstetrician’s office systems work with your schedule and specific needs. Ask about appointment scheduling for routine checkups, urgent pregnancy concerns and illness during pregnancy. Notice how long you have to wait to get in to see the obstetrician for your interview and ask how long a typical wait might be. If this is a group practice that shares delivery duties depending on who is on call, ask when you will meet other obstetricians who might deliver your baby. Most important, get a sense of how you feel in the office. Is the staff warm and friendly? Would you feel comfortable calling with a question?
- Finances - Though no one likes to think about it, obstetrical care over the course of pregnancy and delivery costs money. Check with your insurance carrier to find out exactly what’s covered and if there are any services you will be expected to pay for out-of-pocket. Then talk to the obstetrician’s office staff to find out their policy on payment, filing insurance claims, and other financial issues. The sooner you get this area handled, the less stress it will cause as your due date approaches.
- Additional services - Ask if the office offers any access via e-mail or Internet services to ask questions or to request appointments or prescription refills. Also check to see if the office performs on-site diagnostic services such as blood tests, amniocenteses and sonograms.
For further information | back to top
If you have additional questions or would like a referral to a Sutter-affiliated obstetrician in your neighborhood, please call our 24-hour referral hotline at (800) 4-SUTTER (478-8837), available seven days a week.