Choosing an obstetrician is an exciting, personal, and important start to a pregnancy. While most pregnancies result in healthy babies, dangerous complications can arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery that can cause permanent, devastating injuries to the mother and/or baby. Given the extreme consequences of mishandled complications, it is important for parents to play a proactive role in selecting an obstetrician. Throughout this page, our birth injury team will cover some of the considerations expectant mothers can make when searching for and choosing an obstetrician.
Questions to Ask the Obstetrician
Listed below are some questions a pregnant woman can ask her prospective obstetricians to help determine which one to select for prenatal care and delivery:
- How many deliveries have you performed?
- Will you continuously monitor my baby’s heart rate when I go into labor?
- Are you skilled at interpreting fetal heart rate tracings? How many years of experience do you have?
- Will someone skilled in fetal heart rate interpretation be present at all times when I’m in labor?
- If my baby shows signs of distress and I cannot immediately deliver, do you and the hospital have the capability to quickly deliver by C-section? Will I be in or next to a room where a C-section can quickly be performed? How many years of experience do you have in performing emergency C-sections?
- Will there be a second physician immediately available so that if both my baby and I are in distress, there is one physician focusing on me and one focusing on my baby?
- Is there proper resuscitation equipment immediately available in case my baby needs to be resuscitated after birth? Will there be a skilled neonatal resuscitation team immediately available that can put a breathing tube in my baby (intubate) if needed?
- Will you please thoroughly explain the risks of, benefits of, and alternatives to any medications (such as Pitocin or Cytotec to induce or speed up labor) or delivery instruments you are going to use (such as forceps or vacuum extractors)?
- If an obstetrician decides to utilize drugs or delivery instruments, it is important to ask the obstetrician how much experience they have with using the drugs or forceps and/or vacuum extractors. This is particularly true when it comes to delivery instruments, which are very risky. C-section risks and benefits must also be thoroughly discussed.
If the obstetrician leaves the room during labor, the mother should not hesitate to ask the staff members present if they are skilled at fetal heart rate interpretation and if they have taken a proficiency exam. Research shows that a lot of medical malpractice occurs when abnormal (non-reassuring) fetal heart tracings are not recognized, or if they are recognized, there is a breakdown in communication among the staff. An example would be when the staff fails to communicate abnormal heart tracings to the obstetrician, and then the baby is not quickly delivered and is instead left in oxygen depriving conditions, which can cause brain damage.
In addition to proper fetal monitoring, the mother must also be properly monitored. A mother’s blood pressure, heart rate, and physical signs (such as abdominal and back pain and lack of fetal movement) can give important information regarding impending or current fetal distress.
These questions above are a lot to remember, and friends, family, or the mother’s birthing partner should feel free to ask them as well. It is very important to play an active role during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. In our FAQ section, we discuss tests that should be performed during pregnancy and labor to help ensure the health of the baby.
Quality prenatal care is crucial for the baby’s health. It is important to have regular testing throughout pregnancy, and if the mother has a high-risk pregnancy (preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, previous difficult pregnancy or delivery, etc.), prenatal testing should occur more frequently. If a mother has a high-risk condition, she should ask the obstetrician how much experience he or she has with pregnant women who have had the same condition. Often, mothers with high-risk conditions are referred to maternal-fetal specialists who focus on the particular high-risk condition.
An expectant mother may also ask the obstetrician how many deliveries he or she has been involved in where the baby required time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), or where the baby had hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) | Birth Injury Attorneys
Mistakes made during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the neonatal period can result in devastating injuries. Birth injury victims often go on to require significant lifelong care resources. If your child was diagnosed with a permanent disability, such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), and intellectual and developmental disabilities, the award-winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers can help. Our firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success. We encourage you to reach out to our team for a free legal consultation.