When parents are expecting a new baby and hang around a lot of other parents, they may have heard their fair share of "delivery room horror stories." While most delivery room doctors do their job to the best of their abilities, some OB/GYNs only have one person's best interest in mind: their own. Moms who get stuck with these obstetricians suffer through labor that is much more difficult and less safe than a delivery room doctor who knows what they're doing.
You have every right as an expecting parent to "shop around," so to speak, when determining the ideal OB/GYN for your labor. Talk to your insurance company about which hospitals and doctors they cover, and don't be afraid to call or make an appointment with several OB/GYNs before you make your decision. Screening through multiple obstetricians may seem like a lot of work, but you'll thank yourself for doing so when your induction date arrives.
As you're doing so, keep in mind a few of your own personal delivery room "deal breakers" for OB/GYNs. While there's a big difference between a doctor and a date, you can still keep your eyes peeled for red flags just like you would on a date. Many of the times, these warning signs are quite similar. Doctors who are arrogant, poor listeners, and judgmental people are not going to work well in the delivery room. Sometimes, too, you might just not "click" with a certain doctor just as you might not jive with someone on a date. The two situations may be worlds apart, but they operate on surprisingly mirrored terms.
These are 15 of the most common "deal breakers" to look out for in delivery room doctors and what to do if your potential OB/GYN exhibits these warning traits. Consider these deal breakers below and come up with a few of your own, and keep them in mind during the introductory appointment with your obstetrician. You'll save yourself a lot of stress during the delivery.
A doctor fresh out of residency isn't necessarily a warning sign. New doctors can even be ideal, in some ways. They're still alert and looking out for even little details that older doctors might dismiss without a thought. At this point in their career, they probably haven't faced burnout. Doctors new to the trade may even exhibit more energy than their older colleagues and work much harder in high-stress situations.
But there is a difference between a new doctor and an inexperienced one. Think during the appointment if they seem anxious or uncertain when talking about the labor. Ask them any questions you have, and listen to their responses. Unless your concerns are incredibly specific, they should be able to answer with a good amount of confidence. Sometimes you can just tell when a person doesn't know what they're talking about. If this is the case with your OB/GYN, try to find a new one.
If your pregnancy is high-risk or comes with some complications, even an experienced OB/GYN might not be the best fit for your pregnancy. Consider finding an obstetrician who specializes in your need, if at all possible with your insurance. A doctor may be excellent in general labors but unable to offer you ideal care if they haven't had enough experience dealing with it.
14 Bad Memory
OB/GYNs handle a lot of patients. From time to time, the trivial information might blur a little. Maybe they forget how many kids you have or what you said your hometown is. This is totally understandable. But if your obstetrician forgets your name or more important details of your pregnancy, you might need to really question your loyalty to this obstetrician. If they're forgetting now, you may want to question how much they'll remember in a high-stress situation like a delivery.
While you're looking for your obstetrician, you may not be sure how to tell if their memory is in top shame. When it comes to you and your pregnancy's details, you may have to wait. Think of some questions to ask them beforehand about their past deliveries and how they handled specific situations. If they can answer these with a fair amount of detail and seem to possess clear memories, you can feel comfortable knowing that your doctor will probably remember what they need to during your own labor.
The high pay and steady workflow can be attractive for many doctors, but this shouldn't be the sole reason they chose their career. Doctors who have no passion for their work see every labor as little more than a paycheck. This is not the kind of person you want in charge of your delivery. They won't have their baby's health in mind nor will they try nearly as hard as a caring OB/GYN to make sure all goes well. If anything is an absolute deal breaker on this list, this one should be near the top.
Determining why an obstetrician chose their career can be difficult, especially if you haven't spent a lot of time around them. The best way to find out is to ask them, of course! Among your list of questions, make sure to ask them why they chose their career and what they love about it. Listen to their answer and consider whether the reasons are respectable or more superficial.
Every doctor has their own reasons for entering their career: some enjoy helping others, some had a life-changing experience with a doctor growing up, and some wanted a career that could support their family. Medical jobs offer excellent salaries, and if your doctor mentions this reason among others, this is not necessarily a reason to worry. But if this is the only reason they chose the job, you may want to find another doctor.
12 Doesn't Value Your Input
Your doctor has gone to medical school and has more lived experience as a medical professional than you do, but they should still listen to your perspective. While some things are not up to you, you do have an fair amount of choice when it comes to your labor. You can chose, for example, whether or not to have an epidural. You can also choose to have a scheduled C-section, if you feel it is best for your situation, and you can choose some things about how your medical team will wash and take care of your baby directly following birth.
If you have a reason for your choices in any of the above situations (or others), your doctor should respect that. They may not agree necessarily with your personal choice, but so long as your decision is not dangerous or life-threatening, they should be able to accommodate. If your doctor is overly unaccepting of your choices or outright insults your decisions during the first appointment, ask yourself whether you want a doctor who won't consider your perspective in the labor room. If this is more than you'd prefer to bear, look for an obstetrician who will respect your choices. They are out there.
Most obstetricians have seen it all. If they've been in the practice for a good amount of time, they've been in every situation they could have imagined and more that they couldn't have dreamed of. They've seen the happiest moments of some mothers' lives, and they've seen the most heartbreaking of others'. They've seen life and death, loss and gain, and with any hope, their lived experiences have given them some depth. If your doctor seems to judge your decisions or in makes you feel ashamed, you can guarantee that your labor will be uncomfortable and outside of your best interests.
Consider how your OB/GYN talks about you and whether they are patronizing or seem to look down on you. For example, if you have gotten pregnant out of wedlock and your doctor does not respect this, or if your doctor makes you feel ashamed of yourself for your lifestyle, your gender, your culture, or anything else, they are not the right doctor for you. A doctor's role is to treat and heal, not to judge anyone. If they make you feel small during the first appointment, consider how unhappy you'll feel by the time you're in the delivery room. You deserve better. Find a delivery room doctor who respects you.
10 Awful Bedside Manner
Some doctors are more blunt than others. While they don't have to sugarcoat everything, you'll want to find a doctor who has decent bedside manners. If your doctor does not seem to take your labor seriously and makes inappropriate jokes or phrases things in a way that makes you uncomfortable, your delivery will not be one you'll want to remember. A doctor who knows how to work with patients can make a world of difference during the delivery. You'll want to find a doctor who knows how to talk with patients and can help them feel safe.
If you can, ask around and talk to local friends who have given birth. Ask them about their OB/GYN and whether they created a good patient-doctor relationship during the delivery. Avoid obstetricians who left your friends less-than-impressed, and pay attention to obstetricians who helped your friends' labors go smoothly. If you are the first among your close friends to have a baby, take to the internet and look up online reviews. Word of mouth is an excellent way to get a sense of a doctor's hospitality.
The focus of attention during a delivery should be around you and your baby. Most obstetricians know this and will devote their attention to you, your child, and their medical team. If the only person who your obstetrician seems to care about is that man or woman in the mirror, you may have a problem on your hands. Though uncommon, self-absorbed delivery room doctors are out there, and you'll want to stay far away from them for your comfort's sake during the delivery.
Consider during the first appointment how your potential obstetrician acts and whether they seem to show genuine interest in you. Although first impressions are not always accurate, you may need to rely on them in this case. If your doctor seems to show little interest in your personal details and instead spends time talking up their achievements, accolades, and experiences, you might just know where their interests lie. Hint: it's not in your baby, where it should be. Advice? Choose another OB/GYN, stat, lest you regret it in seven or eight months.
8 Crumbles Under Pressure
During the delivery, you may feel the urge to panic. If you do, you have no reason to feel ashamed (especially if this is your first baby). Delivery can be a roller coaster from one moment to the next, and unexpected complications may make the procedure not quite go as planned. You are well within your right to express your anxiety. Your doctor, however, should keep a clear head even when nervous. If they cannot, this is a red flag so important not to miss that it may as well have blinking neon lights surrounding it.
All doctors feel worried from time to time, but they have received training on what to do in difficult situations. Doctors who fall apart during high-stress situations are not reassuring to be around, and they are more likely to have forgotten their training. When you're looking for an OB/GYN and you want to know their temperament when facing danger, ask them about a complication that worried them during a delivery and how they handled it. Asking them this should give you an idea about how they might act during your labor and whether they'll keep the delivery room calm.
Patience is a virtue for every profession, but it is a key to success for obstetricians. Impatient OB/GYNs risk rushing the labor in favor of their own convenience rather than whether their methods are safe. They might not put your needs above their own, and they are likely to ignore early warning signs until they have to acknowledge them. By then, these warnings may come too late. An impatient obstetrician is not just uncomfortable to be near but also a danger to their patients' emotional and physical health.
Your doctor may feel frustrated when the labor doesn't go to plan, but if they exhibit a hot temper, they may unnecessarily scare you and further worsen any complications that arise. Getting a sense of a doctor's patience threshold can be difficult during the first appointment, which is likely to be a low-stress situation. In this case, consider little actions a sign of what could come later. If your doctor is unnecessarily angry about a trivial event, especially if they blow up about it, schedule an appointment with a new OB/GYN when you get home.
6 Poor Listener
When you're looking for a good OB/GYN, you'll want one who listens to you and actively participates in conversations. Everyone has a bad day from time to time, and an appointment may come where your doctor seems distracted. But if your potential OB/GYN seems constantly disinterested in you or what you have to say, you may run into serious difficulties during the labor. During the first appointment with your potential delivery room doctor, think to yourself: are they paying genuine attention to what I'm saying? And would they listen to me while I'm giving birth?
Doctors are usually observant, but even they are not omniscient. During the delivery, what you say and the concerns you report will be very important. If you feel uncomfortable or notice any painful sensations, your doctor will keep this in mind and determine whether they are early warning signs. Doctors with a pair of good listening ears are essential during major procedures, especially when delivering a baby. Don't put your trust in the hands of a doctor who dismisses everything you say. If they're not listening to you now, they definitely won't listen to you when you need it most.
For the most part, delivery room doctors are careful to keep up professional appearances. You probably won't find a self-respecting OB/GYN, for example, that stumbles into the delivery room an hour late, drunk, and wearing their pajamas. If they've made it through medical school and have lasted this long in the practice, they probably value their job a lot and know how to do it. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but most obstetricians will be alert and on their best behavior.
But it's the little things you may want to keep an eye out for. Consider your doctor's professionalism in the way they talk, for example. Do they make discriminatory comments towards a certain gender, culture, or race, for example? Do they tell jokes that make you feel uncomfortable? How good are they at explaining themselves, and are they patient enough to do so? Actions do speak louder than words, but when you're looking for the perfect OB/GYN, pay just as much attention to their speech as anything else.
Confidence is healthy, but if your doctor veers near arrogance, you may want to second guess yourself as to whether they're the right doctor for you. While this can seem reassuring, arrogance is a toxic trait in a delivery room. Doctors who believe they know everything are less likely to notice labor warning signs. They might also make more mistakes than their more cautious colleagues, especially if they believe that they can do no wrong (and are thus not trying hard).
Arrogant doctors are also not likely to treat you, as the patient, very well. Cocky doctors see themselves as a plane above everyone else, and they're unlikely to care about you unless you are praising them. If your doctor doesn't care about you so much as they care about themselves, they don't have your best interests in mind. They also don't care about your baby more than another success to add to their list.
Your baby is more than a checkmark. They are a human being, and they should be treated as such. Find a doctor with a realistic understanding of their own abilities. Don't waste time with doctors who consider themselves perfect, or you'll find out in the delivery room just how wrong they are.
3 No Empathy
Doctors with empathy for their patients are not few and far between. Many obstetricians feel called to their work because of how much good they can do for others. Your potential OB/GYN will likely feel some level of care for their patients and the need to look out for their well-being. At the very least, they will likely listen to your concerns and answer them with your best interests in mind.
A doctor who does not care about you or your health is one you want to keep far away from your delivery room. Empathy may not mark the most intelligent doctor, but it does mark the most competent and the safest one. If a doctor is disengaged from what they're doing and forget the gravity of their position, they are much more likely to make a mistake. Doctors without empathy are not just unpleasant to be around, but they're also unsafe.
Consider how your potential OB/GYN treats you during the first appointment. Good signs include whether your doctor makes an effort to get to know you and treats you kindly. Doctors that disregard your questions, interrupt you, or don't seem to care about you as a person are bad signs, indeed. Consider finding another obstetrician if they treat you poorly, no matter what their credentials are.
2 Sleep Deprived
A doctor with poor sleeping habits is not a doctor you want leading your baby's delivery. You'll be hard-pressed, of course, to find a doctor who works ideal hours. The medical field is known for twelve-hour shifts stacked back to back. Of all doctors, obstetricians get the shortest end of the stick. They can be awoken at all hours of the day or night depending on when their patients go into labor.
But there is a difference between working long hours and working yourself so hard that you're unable to handle your duties. Over-exhaustion is only too common in the medical field. Doctors may be tempted to put themselves in situations where they're too fatigued to have a clear head but are doing procedures that absolutely need one.
If a doctor wants to practice self-care, then they can find a way to do so, but a doctor who doesn't make time for themselves is not one you want handling your labor. If your potential OB/GYN already seems like they're sleepwalking at your first appointment, consider it a red flag and ask your insurance what other doctors they will cover. You'll want your labor to go as smoothly as it can, and a doctor who takes care of themselves is much better equipped to take care of their work.
1 Incompatible With Your Needs
You might not click with a certain doctor in the delivery room for any reason other than your needs are incompatible with what they offer. This is okay, and it is a normal thing. Just because a certain doctor meshes poorly with your personality, it doesn't mean that either you or them are in the wrong. In this is the beauty of human interaction: if you, as a patient, do not work well with them as the doctor, you can find somebody else who is a better fit.
When looking for an OB/GYN, consider how you interact with them on a basic level. Do you enjoy being around them? Do you feel like you and them would work well together in a stressful situation? If you had certain needs in the delivery room, would they be able to meet them? You don't have to be best friends with your obstetrician, but you don't want to spend so many months around someone who you dislike. If you connect with a potential OB/GYN, wonderful! If not, don't be afraid to try another option. You don't owe your loyalty to an obstetrician out of obligation and if you feel comfortable with one over another, don't be afraid to make a switch.
Sources: Livescience.com, TheAtlantic.com, PsychologyToday.com.