Here are the three main reasons you might have for making a change.
1. You're dissatisfied with your doctor's care. Lack of respect is a common complaint among many patients who switch doctors. "If your doctor makes you feel unimportant, that's a problem," says Keane Baker. Curt, unsympathetic office employees are also a turnoff, as are doctors who don't return telephone calls or promptly notify patients of test results.
Annemarie Mansour of Annapolis, Maryland, changed doctors as soon as she got pregnant with her third child. Mansour had suffered two previous miscarriages and didn't want to stay with the practice that had been overseeing her care. "They acted like their important patients were their pregnant patients," Mansour recalls. "When I miscarried and needed more attention, it wasn't there."
She chose a new doctor in a solo practice by seeking recommendations from other pregnant women. "The doctor sat down and talked with me. I didn't have to have my questions memorized and rattle them off before she rushed out the door," Mansour says. "And the office staff even knew who I was when I called."
2. You move to a new town -- or to a new healthcare plan. Sometimes the need to switch doctors is beyond your control. Pregnant women who relocate often find themselves scrambling to get a new physician. Health insurance changes -- fairly common even if you don't switch jobs -- can also send patients doctor-shopping. Finally, some ob-gyns grappling with skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums are dropping their obstetrical practices to focus on lower-cost gynecological care, sending their patients out to other doctors.
Moving gave Paige Henry, a mother of three, a good excuse to leave a doctor in whom she had lost faith. When her second baby, Maura, arrived, she surprised everyone by coming out buttocks-first. Henry's obstetrician joked that her oversight of Maura's breech position was "a big oops" -- but that was a huge understatement, according to Henry.
Looking back, Henry blames the doctor's packed waiting room and hurried exams for the oversight. When she got pregnant with her third daughter, her family's move from New Jersey to Virginia gave her a happy excuse to switch during her 20th week.
3. Your pregnancy suddenly grows more complicated. That's what happened to me. In my 35th week, my midwife discovered that my baby was breech and my amniotic fluid was low. Suddenly I had checkups every other day. My midwife worked closely with an obstetrician, so they were both present for the visits, which included an unsuccessful attempt to turn my son in utero.
I wanted to try for a vaginal delivery anyway. But when my water broke a day before my due date and labor wasn't progressing, it became clear that a cesarean would be the safest way to deliver. Although the doctor did the surgery, my midwife was involved, and I loved that the new doctor tried so tenaciously to accommodate my wishes for a natural birth.
It helps to remember that all obstetricians want to give their patients a positive birth experience. "It doesn't really matter who delivers a patient's baby," Dr. White says. "What's important is a healthy mother and a healthy baby."
Dana DiFilippo is a writer in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and mom to Zaki.