Tips for Talking to Your OB About Your Preferences for Labor and Birth

Taking a quality childbirth class is one of the best ways to learn about your options for labor and birth, as well as how to communicate your preferences with your care provider. Learning about your choices and learning about how to talk with your OB about those choices are easy. Actually communicating them when the time comes can feel intimidating and prove more challenging. 

You may have an long-standing relationship with your provider since before pregnancy and feel that you have a great relationship. Ideally, you also know that your OB or midwife practices evidence-based care and will support you with healthy care practices during labor and birth. A strong existing relationship with your provider is great, but it does not ensure you’ll get what you want and need when the time comes. If you’re choosing a new OB or midwife, be sure to schedule an interview to learn more about how they practice. If you have an existing OB, follow our provider communication tips below. 

Don’t wait until labor to ask questions/discuss options. 

Start talking to your OB or midwife as early and often as possible during your prenatal care. As you learn about the best choices for a safe and healthy birth, talk to your provider. Do they support these choices? Do they routinely practice this way? Inform yourself by taking a childbirth class and touring the hospital’s labor and delivery unit. Read quality, evidence-based books about birth. Talk to other parents about their experiences. Start figuring out what you want your labor to be like and then, talk it over with your doctor. During labor is not the time to learn that you and your OB are on the same page.

Ask questions with your clothes on

Asking questions before or after an exam in which you are required to remove clothes allows you to feel less vulnerable. 

Write down your questions

It’s so easy to forget that one (or two or three) thing you wanted to ask in between appointments. Write down your questions and keep them in your phone so you’ll be ready when you need them. 

Take your partner or a friend

It’s true what they say about strength in numbers. When you bring along a loved on to appointments, two things can happen: you feel more confident to speak up and ask questions; and your person can help you remember what you wanted to ask as well as help recall the answers your provider gives you. Plus, your friend/partner can ask questions, too.  

Communication is an ongoing process

Labor isn’t the time to start communicating, but it also isn’t the time to stop. If your primary OB isn’t on call, share your preferences with the OB attending your labor and delivery. Also, don’t hesitate to repeat questions/topics during prenatal appointments, even if you’ve discussed them earlier. Chances are, you may find out something new or learn that your provider isn’t as supportive as you initially believed. 

Speaking up may be hard, but regret is harder

Some people find it very hard to speak up or stand up for themselves. If this is true for you, keep in mind that many parents look back on their first birth experience and wish they would have spoken up more for their needs and wants, or to learn that their provider was not supportive. 

Some questions to ask

Unsure of what to ask to learn more about how your care provider practices? Depending on what your preferred labor looks like, you could ask: How often do you attend births where the parent is laboring and giving birth without an epidural or pain medication? How often do you attend inductions (do you know your rate?) and for what reasons do you suggest an induction? What is your c-section rate? Do you attend VBACs and if so, how often? What would happen for me if my water breaks before labor starts? 

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