Why It's Okay to Switch Doctors During Pregnancy
Is It Okay To Switch Providers Mid-Pregnancy?
May 13, 2022

Is It Okay To Switch Providers Mid-Pregnancy?

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Is It Okay To Switch Providers Mid-Pregnancy?.
Is It Okay To Switch Providers Mid-Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is filled with high-stakes decisions. Every little choice can seem daunting, from strollers and car seats to prenatal supplements and breast pumps. Your support system is a lifeline, and your healthcare provider is no exception. So if you’re swimming in prenatal angst and feeling unsupported by your doctor, it’s natural to consider making a switch.

Still, you might wonder if you have a “good enough” reason. But you deserve to feel comfortable, and it’s okay to make a change if the situation isn’t working for you.

Here are five solid reasons to serve your doctor their walking papers, and how to find a better fit for you.

Reason #1: You Have Conflicting Birth Philosophies

There’s no right way to give birth, and it’s up to you and your care team to figure out what makes the most sense for you. Although your physician is an expert, it’s still essential to talk through any conflicting views you have on things like doula assistance, inductions and other interventions. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says to meet the standard of care, providers must engage in informed consent and shared decision-making. This means they should be discussing options and possibilities with you so you can make choices as a team.

“Pregnancy and delivery are hard enough—with enough surprises,” says Dr. Shieva Ghofrany, a board-certified ob-gyn and founder of Tribe Called V. “You really want to set yourself up in a space where you feel confident that the team is going to have your best interests in mind.”

Reason #2: Your Doctor Doesn’t Answer Your Questions

The ACOG has guidelines on what your provider should do during each prenatal appointment and recommends patient education during every visit. To that end, your ob-gyn should take your questions seriously.

Dr. Ghofrany points out that the average doctor’s visit is only about 20 minutes; however your doctor should still take time to address questions and concerns empathetically. If you find that you aren’t connected to your doctor and they aren’t answering your questions, save your breath. “Rather than feel like you need to empower yourself against them by barraging them with even more questions, I really do suggest you find a different provider,” Dr. Ghofrany says.

Reason #3: Your Provider Is Inaccessible Between Visits

Questions and concerns don’t just happen during scheduled appointments. They pop up throughout your pregnancy (sometimes at 3 a.m.), so it’s reasonable to reach out between visits. If you find your doc doesn’t get back to you or you’re not receiving enough attention between appointments, Dr. Ghofrany suggests figuring out if it’s an isolated incident.

“If your provider was dismissive of one question once, okay,” she says. “But if they’re routinely dismissive of any questions you have…or if you can never call in and actually speak to someone,” then that’s a pattern of behavior that tells you your needs aren’t being addressed.

This matters because interactions with your doctor during your pregnancy can give you invaluable insight into how things will go down in the delivery room.

“How a provider communicates with you during pregnancy doesn’t get better; it gets worse,” says Vanessa Hanible, a certified lactation consultant and doula and founder of Wholesome Beginnings. “If they think they don’t have to listen to you and you’re not an active part of the birthing experience during the prenatal period, it’s just going to get worse when you’re vulnerable and trying to give birth.”

The bottom line: If you’re not having the kind of discussions you want with your provider, it’s okay to explore other options.

Reason #4: You Feel Othered

It’s well-documented that race, sexuality and gender identity can impact your overall quality of care. A 2019 study published in Reproductive Health found one in six women reported experiencing poor treatment in childbirth, and pregnant people of color experienced higher rates of mistreatment, so it’s important for Black moms in particular to find doctors who advocate for them. Data from the Center for American Progress indicates that LGBTQ patients experience barriers to equitable care, and nearly 50% of trans patients reported providers have deliberately misgendered them, refused to provide care, verbally abused them or used the wrong name.

Size is a factor, too: A 2020 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth surveyed 501 pregnant and postpartum people and found that 20% of respondents experienced weight stigma while receiving prenatal care. People with disabilities face similar stigma and barriers to equitable care, along with higher rates of birth complications and maternal mortality.

You don’t have to stick with a doctor that is marginalizing or mistreating you for any reason. There are size-inclusive providers out there, and Hanible suggests making a change at the first sign that things are not right. “I don’t think you have to wait for a provider to do something egregious,” Hanible says. “You can leave if you feel uncomfortable.”

Reason #5: You Don’t Like the Practice

Many providers are part of large group practices. It’s possible that the person you consider your primary healthcare provider won’t be the person who delivers your child. If possible, Dr. Ghofrany suggests meeting every provider in the practice to familiarize yourself with whoever attends your delivery. If you don’t gel with multiple providers in the practice, you might want to switch to a smaller one or find an office that suits your needs.

Is It Ever a Bad Idea to Switch Providers?

Not really. It’s natural to consider talking to your provider about your concerns, and if you think you can address them, Dr. Ghofrany suggests doing so. However, she also stresses trusting your intuition. There’s nothing wrong with switching your provider mid-pregnancy, and “if it’s just that spidey sense that you walk into that office and don’t feel good, you should switch,” she says.

Dr. Ghofrany mentions that some practices will not take new patients in their third trimester, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to find a better fit if you’re that far along and feel like you need to make a change.

3 Steps to Find a Better Fit for You

You know how it goes: The anticipation is generally worse than the act itself. Here are three ways to ensure a smooth transition, especially when time is of the essence.

1. Request Your Medical Records ASAP

It’s important to send medical records to your new provider right away to ensure seamless care. That’s why Hanible suggests requesting your records when you think you might switch. This way, you’ll have them ready to share with your new provider whenever you find one that works for you.

2. Decide What’s Important and Start Researching

Can you pinpoint what’s not working with your current doctor? Dr. Ghofrany suggests chatting with your provider about why you’re leaving (if you feel comfortable). The goal isn’t to change your mind; instead, it might benefit other patients in the practice and help you articulate what you need.

When you’re ready to search for someone new, talk to other pregnant people or parents about their experiences, scour online reviews (sites like Motherfigure, ZocDoc or Vitals are great resources) or ask your primary care provider’s office for recommendations.

Even if you don’t want a doula or a midwife, it’s still worth calling their practices to ask if there are providers they’d personally recommend, Hannibal says. After all, they observe doctors in action almost every day.

3. Ask Potential New Providers All Your Questions (Nothing Is Off Limits)

In addition to some of the more obvious considerations—like their hospital affiliations, whether they accept your insurance and if they’re taking on new patients—Hanible encourages her clients to ask potential providers questions that reflect their needs. For example, you might ask:

  • What are your C-section and induction rates?
  • When working with Black, Indigenous, Asian and/or Latinx patients, what considerations do you keep in mind?
  • How do you collaborate with doulas during the birthing process?
  • How many providers are in your practice, and will I have the opportunity to meet everyone that might attend my birth?
  • How aware are you of health disparities among pregnant people with disabilities? And how do you approach caring for disabled patients?
  • How does your practice prioritize inclusivity for LGBTQ+ expecting parents?

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. Feel empowered to ask about whatever is important to you.

There is no one way to give birth—and a provider you adore doesn’t ensure your pregnancy and delivery will be easy. But it does mean that if difficulties arise, you’ll have confidence in your care team. “If you get a feeling that you don’t trust your doctor or midwife, you should switch,” Dr. Ghofrany says. “That’s probably the number one thing to remember.”

EXPERT SOURCES:

Shieva Ghofrany, M.D. OB-GYN and founder of Tribe Called V @biglovefiercejuju

Vanessa Hanible, IBCLC Full-spectrum doula and owner of Wholesome Beginnings


Patia Braithwaite is a New York-based health journalist whose work has appeared in SELF, Well + Good, Refinery29, Vice and the Washington Post. When she’s not writing, she enjoys yoga, running and knitting mediocre sweaters.

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