How Dads Can Help Screen Potential Birth Practitioners

By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Whichever birth practitioner you and your partner choose, the best way to know whether you’re in the right place is to ask and what to ask. Accompany your partner to her visit when discussing options because if the practitioner isn’t onboard with your partner’s plan, she may think she can just wait and talk some sense into the absent parent — that would be you.

Presenting a united front, especially on nonnegotiable items (such as home birth, for example) is best done as a couple. Consider asking these questions:

  • Where do you deliver? Most doctors deliver at just one hospital — maybe two. If you choose a midwife, find out whether she delivers at homes only or also at hospitals, and make sure she can do it where you want to be. Many certified nurse-midwives deliver only at hospitals.

  • What’s your Cesarean rate? The Cesarean rate in the United States and other developed countries is high. Although C-sections are often necessary and lifesaving, they have a higher risk of complications for your partner and the baby. A significantly higher Cesarean rate than your area’s average is a warning sign that your doctor may be too quick with the knife.

  • How many inductions do you do? Nobody wants to be pregnant forever, or even nine months, but pregnancies were designed to end naturally. Some doctors do way too many inductions, especially on Friday mornings. Your convenience isn’t always the goal when the doctor offers to induce labor. Also, induced labors have a higher Cesarean rate, and Cesarean deliveries cause more maternal and fetal complications.

  • Who’s on call? Does the doctor come in when her patients go into the hospital or do residents manage labor? Early in labor, some doctors have the resident on call or the nurse check their patient and call them for instructions.

    This isn’t necessarily a problem, but knowing it ahead of time keeps you from badgering the nurses about when your doctor is coming in. For midwives, find out whether she has an assistant or backup person to cover for her if she can’t attend.

  • How do you feel about [fill in the blank]? If you have an unusual request, politely approach your practitioner with this line instead of demanding, “We want [whatever].” If you both want to spend labor in the hot tub naked, now would be a good time to get your practitioner’s feedback on this idea.

Make sure you and your partner agree on what you want before discussing plans with your practitioner, and discuss it well before labor starts.

Arguing in front of the nurses and trying to talk your partner out of an epidural at 6 centimeters is considered really bad form by the hospital staff, and they may not let you use the coffee machine or show you their hidden stash of emergency snacks for fainting fathers if they don’t like the way you talk to your partner!