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Welcome, expectant parents!  When it comes to your pregnancy journey, having a supportive and caring OB-GYN can make all the difference. Your OB-GYN should be your partner in this life-changing experience, providing guidance, reassurance, and expert medical care. But what if you suspect that your healthcare provider is dismissive or unsupportive? In this blog, we’ll explore the vital role of OB-GYNs in pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care, identify red flags that may indicate an unsupportive provider, and offer guidance on how to respond.

The Role of an OB-GYN in Your Pregnancy Journey

OB-GYNs should play a role in guiding and supporting individuals through the transformative stages of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care. Here’s an overview of what they are expected to do:

 Pregnancy Care

    • Prenatal Visits: OB-GYNs should schedule regular prenatal visits to monitor your health and the development of your baby. These visits typically occur monthly during the first trimester, every two weeks during the second trimester, and weekly during the third trimester.
    • Screenings and Tests: They should order necessary screenings and tests, including ultrasounds, blood tests, and sometimes genetic screenings, to ensure both your and your baby’s well-being. They will review the results of these tests and interpret them for you.
    • Providing Information: OB-GYNs should educate you about the changes in your body, the progress of your pregnancy, and what to expect during labor and delivery.
    • Answering Questions: They should be open to answering your questions and addressing your concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem.

 Labor and Delivery

    • During Labor: OB-GYNs should be present to monitor your progress, provide guidance on pain management options, and offer information to help you make medical decisions.
    • Catching Baby: They are responsible for catching your baby (remember you are the one delivering!) and ensuring that both you and your baby receive appropriate medical care.
    • Emergency Situations: In the event of complications or emergencies, OB-GYNs should act swiftly to protect the health of both you and your baby.

 Postpartum Care

    • Post-Delivery Care: After delivery, your OB-GYN should continue to monitor your health and provide guidance on postpartum recovery.
    • Chestfeeding Support: If you choose to chest-feed, they can offer help when medical complications arise- like mastitis.
    • Mental Health: OB-GYNs should be attentive to your mental health and screen for postpartum depression or anxiety.

Red Flags for an OB-GYN in Your Pregnancy Journey

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a baby being cradled with a parent's hand on their head with a very light pink background with peach water color circles and gold glitter accents

While most OB-GYNs are dedicated and compassionate professionals, there can be instances where you may encounter a dismissive or unsupportive provider. Here are some red flags to be aware of:

Lack of Communication | Red Flag:

Your OB-GYN doesn’t take the time to explain procedures, test results, or your birthing options. They rush through appointments without addressing your concerns or questions.

Example: You express a desire for a spontaneous onset of labor, but your OB-GYN dismisses it without discussion or explanation, pushing for a scheduled c-section.

Disregard for Your Preferences | Red Flag:

Your OB-GYN consistently makes medical decisions without considering your preferences or birth plan. They prioritize their own judgment over your wishes.

Example: You express a desire for minimal medical intervention during labor, but your OB-GYN continuously suggests interventions you’re uncomfortable with, such as continuous monitoring and epidurals.

They also don’t explain their recommendations or are obviously pushing you toward one option.

Lack of Empathy | Red Flag: Your OB-GYN shows little empathy or understanding for the physical and emotional challenges you’re experiencing during pregnancy and postpartum.

Example: You share feelings of anxiety and sadness postpartum, and your OB-GYN dismisses them as normal, without offering support or resources for mental health.

Inadequate Time and Attention | Red Flag:

Your OB-GYN frequently rushes through appointments, spends minimal time with you, and doesn’t listen to your concerns.

Example: During prenatal visits, your OB-GYN barely spends five minutes with you, leaving you feeling unheard and undervalued.

Insensitivity to Your Cultural Needs | Red Flag:

Your OB-GYN displays insensitivity or bias regarding your cultural beliefs, practices, or language barriers.

Example: You have specific cultural preferences for birthing practices, and your OB-GYN disregards them, insisting on Western medical protocols without explanation or consideration.

Unwillingness to Discuss Alternatives | Red Flag:

Your OB-GYN is unwilling to discuss alternative birthing options or medical interventions, making you feel trapped in a one-size-fits-all approach.

Example: You inquire about alternative pain management options during labor, such as hydrotherapy or acupuncture, and your OB-GYN dismisses these ideas without exploration. 

How to Respond to Red Flags

If you notice any of these red flags during your pregnancy, labor, or postpartum care, it’s crucial to take action. Here’s what you can do:

Communicate Your Concerns:

Express your concerns and feelings to your OB-GYN.

It’s possible that they may not be aware of how their behavior is affecting you. Open and honest communication can sometimes resolve issues.

Seek a Second Opinion:

If you feel that your concerns aren’t being addressed or that you’re not receiving the care you need, consider seeking a second opinion from another healthcare provider.

A fresh perspective can provide clarity.

Advocate for Yourself:

Don’t be afraid to advocate for your own needs and preferences.

Your healthcare is a partnership, and you have the right to be an active participant in decision-making.

Seek Support:

If you aren’t able to advocate for yourself or it is unsafe to do so, try to bring a partner or support person who can help.

Alternatively, reach out to support groups or organizations that specialize in pregnancy and childbirth advocacy.

They can offer guidance and resources to help you navigate challenging situations.

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a mother and father cradling each other and a newborn on the father's shoulder with a beige background with green water color circle and gold glitter accents

 When Finding Another Provider Isn’t an Option

In some cases, finding another OB-GYN may not be feasible due to limited healthcare options or insurance constraints. If you find yourself in this situation, consider the following steps:

Engage a Patient Advocate:

A patient advocate can help you navigate the healthcare system, communicate with your provider, and ensure that your concerns are addressed.

Document Everything:

Keep detailed records of your medical interactions, including dates, times, and descriptions of appointments and conversations. This documentation can be valuable if you need to escalate your concerns. In some states, you can also record the conversations you have with your provider without consent, others you must ask for consent to record the conversation, check your local laws.

Consult Legal Resources:

Explore legal resources or organizations that specialize in patient rights. They may be able to provide guidance or advocacy on your behalf.

Seek Emotional Support:

Don’t underestimate the importance of emotional support during this challenging time. Lean on friends, family, or support groups to help you through the process.

Include your Support Person(s)/Doula:

Make sure that your support person(s) and Doula are informed about your wishes and your doctor’s response to them. If you have a difficult time with your OB-GYN and cannot switch, then we highly recommend hiring a doula. These folks can step in and advocate for you in labor if you need. 

Your pregnancy journey is a momentous and deeply personal experience. Your OB-GYN should be your advocate, partner, and source of support throughout this transformative time. If you encounter red flags that indicate a dismissive or unsupportive provider, remember that you have the right to seek compassionate and respectful care.

Please note that while this response provides insights into recognizing red flags in OB-GYN care, it should not be interpreted as medical advice. Every pregnancy is unique, and individual circumstances vary.

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