It’s official – you’ve done the test and those two lines say you’re pregnant! Amid the celebrations, you realise you need someone to look after you and baby for the next nine months. You’d like to see an obstetrician, but there are so many out there. Where do you even start? We’ve made the whole thing easier with our guide on how to choose the best obstetrician for you.
The main thing to remember is that choosing your obstetrician is entirely personal. You’re looking for the best obstetrician for you, so now is a good time to start a list of the qualities you feel are important. Grab a piece of paper and jot down anything that springs to mind, then try to put your list in order of importance.
For some women, the priority will be location or going to a particular hospital. For others, it might be the doctor’s experience with a particular medical problem, appointment times, which health funds they accept, affordability, whether they support vaginal birth or elective Caesarean section, or even just a good sense of humour! There is no “right” list – it’s all about what’s important to you.
Once you have an idea of the qualities you’re looking for, you can start building your short-list of obstetricians.
Making a list…
Most women start by asking family members or close friends for a recommendation. Asking friends is a good way to get the inside track on specific obstetricians, from someone you know and trust.
You can also ask your GP. You’ll need to see your GP early in pregnancy anyway, to have your initial blood tests and to get a referral to your chosen obstetrician. Your GP will often know several of the OBs in your area and will be happy to give you some names. Keep in mind that your GP can offer a different perspective to your friends – your GP may know which obstetricians specialise in particular areas.
If you have a hospital in mind, check the list of obstetricians on that hospital’s website. Your private health fund will often have a “Find-A-Provider” page, and you can also search for local obstetricians on sites like HealthShare or WhiteCoat.
Keep your list broad at this stage – you want several names to consider.
…and checking it twice.
It’s important not to take a recommendation without doing your research. Just because an obstetrician was brilliant for your best friend, or your GP knows them, doesn’t mean they are the best OB for you. Now that you have some names, it’s time to dig a little deeper and narrow down your shortlist.
These days, the majority of private obstetricians have a website and this is the best place to start. Read through each site carefully because it is usually a wealth of information. There will be practical info, such as the hospitals where that OB delivers babies and the location of their rooms for appointments. You’ll also get a general feel for their philosophy and how they approach pregnancy and birth.
Take the time to look at the “About Dr X” section – this is where the doctor will list their qualifications, special interests and experience. Many women don’t realise that obstetricians can have different qualifications and different areas of expertise. For more help with this, see the section on “Different Kinds of Obstetrician” below.
You can also look at Google reviews to see what past patients say about each doctor. If there is a local mum’s group in your area, check their website or Facebook page to see reviews of local obstetricians (for example, here we have North Shore Mums).
Different Kinds of Obstetrician
In Australia, all obstetricians complete the same core training and are given the letters FRANZCOG after their name. However, after core training, obstetricians can go on to earn extra qualifications or focus on a particular area of interest.
This means obstetricians can have different areas of expertise. It’s worth checking if an obstetrician has extra experience relevant to your situation.
Keep an eye out for:
- Sub-specialist qualifications: these are OB-GYN’s who have done an extra 2-3 years of advanced training and been formally certified as experts in their field. There are 4 recognised sub-specialities:
- Maternal-Fetal Medicine (high-risk obstetrics)
- Obstetric & Gynaecological Ultrasound
- Gynaecological Oncology (cancers)
- Urogynaecology (pelvic floor problems and incontinence)
- Other qualifications: if a doctor lists a Diploma or Masters, they have completed a recognized course in their area of interest.
- “Fellowship,”“specializes in” or “interest in…”
- These phrases can be hard to interpret because they cover lots of different scenarios and levels of experience. Generally, it indicates the doctor has some extra experience, but not as much as a sub-specialist in the same field.
- Doctors who are active in research are usually extremely knowledgeable about their chosen topics. Look for a list of scientific articles they have published, or check the letters after their name for academic qualifications like MD or PhD.
Contact Your Top 3 Obstetrician’s Rooms
Online research should help you narrow down the list to your top three doctors. Take these names and phone or email their rooms. The questions to ask at this point include:
- Is the doctor still accepting patients with my due date?
- At which hospitals does this doctor deliver babies?
- Does he or she have any leave booked up to my due date?
- What are the fees for pregnancy care and delivery?
Speaking to the doctor’s reception team will also give you an idea of how friendly and helpful they are – this is actually pretty important! Your doctor sets the tone in the office, so if his/her staff are welcoming and efficient, chances are he/she will be too. You’ll also rely on the office team to answer admin questions, organise appointments and help you to navigate the hospital system.
Making your choice
Now that you’ve done your research, check your Top 3 against your original list of important qualities. You should now have an idea of the doctor who best suits your needs. Contact your chosen doctor’s rooms and book in your first visit. You should do this as early as you can, so you don’t miss out.
If you still aren’t sure, go ahead and make an appointment for a first visit with a couple of obstetricians.There is no issue (other than cost) in going along for one appointment and then making your final decision. Sometimes you need to meet an obstetrician in person before you know if they’ll be a good fit for your personality and style. A good obstetrician understands this.
So that’s how to go about choosing the best obstetrician for you – it’s not so daunting after all! Good luck!