Changing Providers Mid-Pregnancy: How, When & Why?
Some women don’t realize they can change doctors during their pregnancy. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Let’s talk about when, why, and how you should.
We’ve all had to change doctors at one time or another. They moved, we moved, insurance changed, or we just didn’t feel comfortable with them anymore. But when we get pregnant, sometimes we think we’re locked in with the same provider until the baby has been born and we’ve been cleared postpartum.
The truth is, we can change providers any time we want during the pregnancy. In theory, you can change doctors multiple times during the same pregnancy. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
There are good reasons for changing providers during your pregnancy. Let’s take a look at what those reasons are, and then talk about when you should do it and how.
Too big a practice
Do you see a different person every time you go in for a prenatal appointment? More importantly, are there providers that you aren’t comfortable with?
In group practices, even if you see the same doctor throughout your pregnancy, the on-call doctor is the one who will deliver your baby — even if you never actually met that particular doctor.
If you feel overwhelmed by the number of doctors in the practice, or there are one or two that you wouldn’t want to deliver your baby, that’s a good reason to find a new doctor.
Pregnancy, labor and delivery are some of the most intimate, vulnerable experiences you’ll ever have. It’s critical that you feel comfortable with the people who are going to be going through it with you.
Let’s begin with this: misaligned does not mean that either you or the provider is wrong.
But if you want a VBAC, a doula, to avoid pain medication, to not be induced, to schedule a C-section, or something else that your doctor doesn’t allow for or offers what seems to be reluctant support, this is a valid reason for changing providers.
It is important to note some circumstances may dictate you won’t find a provider who can go along with what you want. If there is a legitimate health concern that prevents what you want, a qualified doctor is going to refuse to put your health and safety at risk.
But if a doctor is unable to give you a reason specific to you or your pregnancy and refuses simply because it’s their policy or they disagree with the idea in general, looking for a new provider is a good idea.
Lack of qualifications
Are you having twins or triplets, and your doctor has never delivered multiples? Are you dealing with a complication like preeclampsia, a breech baby, gestational diabetes — and your provider has little to no experience with it?
We all have to start somewhere. To get experience, we have to do something we’ve never done before. But when it comes to your pregnancy and the birth of your baby, this is not the time you want someone learning.
If you don’t feel your doctor has enough experience with your complication or concerns, you should definitely seek out a new provider. Just make sure when you do, you specifically ask about the complications in question so you can be certain you’re finding a qualified doctor next time around.
One of you relocates
Whether you move or the provider’s office moves, sometimes it simply becomes unrealistic to continue seeing the same provider. As you progress further into pregnancy, you’ll find that long drives might start to be uncomfortable. And while labor and delivery don’t typically move as quickly as you see on TV, emergencies do come up.
You want a provider that you can get to quickly, or vice versa, if needed. If one of you has relocated to make the drive unreasonable, it’s fine to look for a new doctor that’s closer.
They don’t have privileges where you want to deliver
Doctors need to have privileges to see patients in a hospital. Some doctors will have privileges at all hospitals in your area, while others may only have them at one or a few. Ideally, you would confirm the doctor you want has privileges at the hospital you want to deliver at, but things can change so even if you have done that, you may find out later that it’s no longer true.
If you choose to change providers for this reason, I would recommend you begin by using the hospital’s website to find out who has privileges there and allow that to guide your search.
Maybe the provider accepted your insurance when you started seeing them, but then that changed. Or perhaps you lost your insurance and are now a cash patient. Maybe it was something else entirely, but the end result is the same: you can’t afford to keep seeing this provider.
Stress isn’t healthy for you or your baby. And if you’re unable to afford your provider, you’ll be stressed. So look for another provider without guilt. It doesn’t hurt to check with the doctor first, though, to see if they offer a discount for cash patients and/or a payment plan that you can handle.
Their staff makes you uncomfortable
The doctor is the one who delivers your baby and has the medical knowledge to diagnose complications. But there is a whole staff of nurses, assistants, receptionist, billing people and transcriptionists who support that doctor and therefore, also are supposed to be supporting you.
If you feel uncomfortable, mistreated, disrespected, or even ignored by other members of the staff, this is a valid reason to change providers. You should feel comfortable from the moment you walk through the door to the moment you leave.
However, as with affordability, I do suggest letting the doctor know that you’re thinking of changing doctors and why. If you are feeling this way, it’s very likely other patients have felt it too. The doctor can’t address his or her staff’s behavior if they aren’t aware it’s happening.
You’re just another chart
Does your doctor have to check the chart to know who you are — or get your name wrong? Do they constantly misremember details about you or your pregnancy — forgetting allergies, complications, or trying to schedule tests or ultrasounds that have already been done?
Doctors often have numerous patients, and no one expects them to be your best friend. But it’s not unreasonable to expect your provider to recognize you when they see you and to remember the things that matter about you and your pregnancy. Not to mention, getting details wrong when it comes to allergies or pregnancy complications can literally be a life or death situation.
If you feel like you’re just a number to your doctor, changing to another provider who pays more attention to every patient is absolutely worth it.
When you go to an appointment with questions, you should leave with answers. Your provider should not only answer your questions, but address any anxiety, stress, or discomfort you have. They should also be reachable outside of appointments if you have questions or concerns.
They should also be clearly communicating to you about tests and procedures that are being done: what they are, why they’re being done, what’s involved, and whether you need to have it done or if it’s optional. They should also be getting back to you with test results in a timely fashion, and answering questions you have about the results.
They should be discussing where you are in the pregnancy, what to expect, what’s not typical, the baby’s growth, and what labor and delivery will be like.
If they’re not doing these things, and you’re left feeling unempowered, uneducated, confused, and maybe even scared, you should switch providers.
When should you break up with your provider?
Whether it’s for one of the reasons above, or simply a gut feeling that you and this provider aren’t a match, you’ve decided it’s time to find a new one. When should you break up with the one you have?
There’s a couple of answers to that.
The first one is: as soon as you realize there’s a problem. There’s no reason to delay the inevitable, so once you’ve concluded you want to stop seeing this doctor, it’s time to do it.
The second answer is: when you’ve found a new provider. If you’re currently pregnant, particularly if it’s later in the pregnancy or if you’re having complications, you don’t want to be entirely without a provider. The emergency room is always an option for emergencies, but most of the time, you’ll likely feel more comfortable with someone who knows your medical history — even if you’re not particularly comfortable with them otherwise.
So once you conclude that you’ve unhappy with your current provider, your first step should be to start seeking out a new one. Look at insurance provider lists, hospital websites, and ask friends or family for recommendations. Get a few names, research them further, and schedule appointments to meet with them and see which one you like the most.
Once you’ve chosen your new provider, it’s time to request your records and break up with the old one.
How do you break up with your provider?
Much like a romantic breakup, you’ll want to be honest with your doctor about why you’re switching. Honest, but not brutal. One thing to keep in mind is that you may not be the first patient to leave for this reason. If no one ever tells the provider why they’re leaving, the provider can’t address the issue.
Beyond that, you should decide whether you feel more comfortable telling them in person, writing a letter, or simply making a phone call to request your records be sent to the new doctor.
You’ll also want to make sure you update whatever needs to be updated to reflect your new doctor. This includes your insurance, important numbers on your phone or fridge, your spouse and others who may be responsible for calling your doctor on your behalf, and the hospital if you’ve already registered and listed the old provider on the paperwork.
A final note
Pregnancy is a time of heightened emotions and hormones. You may find that well-meaning friends and relatives, including your own partner, might try to persuade you that you’re overthinking, overreacting, or that changing doctors is a bad idea.
While you can, and should, consider their advice, you should trust your own instincts. You’re about to become a mother. Mother’s intuition is not a joke. You will know what’s best for you and your baby. If you consider what your loved one is telling you and you still believe that you are making the right decision by changing providers, then stick to it and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
You know what you and your baby need. You know what is best. And you are the best advocate you’ll ever have.