Should You Fire Your OB?

Switching doctors can seem scary, but it might just be time to move on.

pregnant woman at the doctors iStockphoto

Maybe you're thinking of sticking it out with an obstetrician who's more "meh" than marvelous. That's worth reconsidering. "Pregnancy can be a challenging nine months, and any stress can be made worse by having a bad relationship with your medical team," says Chad Klauser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. We talked to moms and OBs to find out when -- and how -- to call it quits.

Feel Connected

Ideally, your OB will be someone who makes you feel really comfortable. Holly Puritz, M.D., an obstetrician in Norfolk, Virginia, understands how important it is to like your doctor. "Every time my husband, who is a surgeon, and I go out, I get hugs from former patients," she says. "My husband often notes that no one knows which doctor took out their gallbladder, but everyone remembers who delivered their baby!" Of course, not all doctors will seem like your new BFF, but a personality fit is vital. You're going to be spending a lot of time with this person!

See Eye to Eye

Whatever your priorities are in a birthing experience, Dr. Klauser recommends discussing them with your OB up front to get a feel for her philosophies.

When Carey Meyers, of Brooklyn, was pregnant with her first child, she planned to have her gynecologist become her OB. But after mentioning that she?d prefer a non-medicated birth, she realized she might need to start seeing someone else instead. "My doctor basically said, 'Things don't usually turn out the way you want them to.' I knew that was true, but her attitude wasn't the best starting point." Meyers followed her instinct and left the practice.

    Speak Up

    "You should feel totally fine asking your OB questions, relaying concerns, or just being honest about your habits without feeling that you will be judged," says Rachel Masch, M.D., associate director of the division of family planning at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City. And if you question your doctor's advice or don't understand why it's being given, ask him about it, suggests Dr. Puritz. "No doctor should be afraid to address your concerns, because he should be confident in what he's saying." So if your M.D.'s defensive or doesn't explain things in a way that makes sense to you, it may be time to go.

      Stop Waiting Around

      An inability to reach your doctor after hours is a total deal-breaker. "You should always feel that people are there for you when you think something is wrong," says Dr. Puritz. That means a prompt callback in serious situations or, for less urgent matters, a call within 24 to 48 hours.

      Erica Kain, a mom of three in Orinda, California, left her OB in the middle of her first pregnancy when her doctor didn't return her calls. "I was throwing up constantly," says Kain, who was later diagnosed with a severe form of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum -- the condition made famous by Duchess Kate Middleton. A few days and several phone calls later, the doctor finally got in touch and apologized, but it was too little too late in Kain's book. She found a new OB and moved on.

        Sever Ties

        "Find a new doctor first and then leave the one you were originally seeing," recommends Dr. Puritz. "If you need a good doctor recommendation, call up the labor-and-delivery floor at your chosen hospital and ask to speak to the charge nurse," she suggests. "She will likely give you the unvarnished truth about doctors, because she sees us on the job at three in the morning!"

        When you've found a better match, know that switching doctors won't jeopardize your pregnancy and that all of your test results can be transferred to your new OB's office. It's up to you whether or not you want to tell your original doctor why you're leaving. Meyers told her OB that she "wanted to work with someone closer to home." Kain simply asked her new OB's office to help her get the records from her former doctor and that was that. No matter what, don't feel guilty about going to a different practice. You're doing what's best for your baby, which is the most important thing of all.

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