More Confused than when You Started: The Pitfalls of Asking for a Referral for a Doctor or Midwife

Do you like your OB

I’ve asked similar questions myself regarding different types of professionals. Our friends’ opinions matter to us. We trust those that have worked with someone to give us guidance and recommendations.

The problem is when one friend loves the doctor and the other has had a bad experience. It is complicated by the third person who interjects with, “Well, I’ve never worked with so-and-so, but I’ve heard…” This often leaves us more frustrated and confused than when we started. So, why is it that one friend loves that OB and the other says he’s terrible?

This is not a simple answer. Some of it may come down to expectations. What did friend 1 expect of their doctor vs. what did friend 2 expect? If their expectations differed then it is likely that friend 1 was happy because her expectations were met, and friend 2 was dissatisfied because her expectations were not met.

If we don’t clearly outline our expectations with our doctors / midwives, and, conversely, they don’t clearly outline their expectations of us, then we have a rather large opportunity for miscommunication and unhappiness.

There are also different ways of interpreting a person’s words or actions. One person may view a doctor who speaks briefly and succinctly as brusque and cold. Another person may appreciate the brevity and see it as efficiency. So, how we perceive another’s words and actions color our opinion of “good” doctor vs. “bad” doctor.

There is also the monkey wrench of medical complications. If the mother experiences unplanned medical complications (really, do we plan for such things?), she may find that her doctor or midwife may react in a way that she doesn’t expect. They may be less communicative, less compassionate and more clinical during the time of the complication. This can be perceived as being “mean” or “short tempered”. However, it may be an auto-pilot response of dealing with a real or potential crisis.  Time may be an issue as well. If the doctor or midwife is under the pressure of “must do this now” there may simply not be adequate time to provide all of the social niceties we’d prefer.

Now, as with the above example, some women will see this as an asset. “Thank goodness my doctor didn’t waste time and they jumped in and did what was necessary to prevent further problems.” Other women will feel like they’ve been trampled upon and treated in an unkind and uncaring manner – same situation, different perception. Both opinions are valid.

Let’s bring this full circle. You are looking for a doctor or midwife to care for you during your pregnancy and birth. Instead of asking “who’s the best?” or “what do you think of so-and-so?” outline your expectations for a care provider.

Here’s an example:

“I’m looking for a doctor or midwife who is open to letting me eat and drink during labor; is cool with me moving around and being out of bed; who is open to working with a doula; who isn’t quick to jump to induction or c-section; and who is a generally happy person and easy to get along with; oh, and someone who delivers at hospital X. Thanks!”

This is a much clearer outline of what you are looking for. You will still get answers of different stripes and someone will likely go off on a tangent about how their doctor at another hospital was crap or that you should consider homebirth. But you can easily weed those comments out of your considerations and pare it down to the useful ones.

Please do read all recommendations with the appropriate filter of “opinion” and vet the doctor or midwife yourself. Do ask open-ended questions to your potential care provider. Plan to interview them as you would any other person you’d hire for a service. Then combine your information with the opinion of friends you trust and you can make a better decision about which doctor or midwife is right for you.

Always keep in mind that you will find 10 women who love that doctor and another 10 who will say they had a bad experience. It’s all perspective. It’s about finding a good match for you, not a good match for other people. Your needs are unique and only you will know if that doctor or midwife is a good fit.


Additional Resources from Lamaze International:

More of my musings on related topics: