The relationship between a patient and a doctor is intimate and sacred. This is, perhaps, even truer of the relationship between an obstetrician and a pregnant (or recently pregnant) mom. It's important to have someone you trust and respect, and who trusts and respects you back. Unfortunately, as someone who's spent the last two years talking to moms about their pregnancies and births, I've come across too many stories about awful or even abusive OBs. Look, you don't have to love your doctor on a spiritual level, but there are creepy things your OB-GYN should never do.
Being pregnant and having a baby is a lot to handle on pretty much every level, and your OB-GYN is going to be a key player on Team "Get Me Through This Pregnancy So I Can Meet My Baby." And let's not forget that by the end of a pregnancy you're seeing your doctor, like, every five minutes. That's a way bigger commitment and closer relationship than the one you probably have with your general practitioner. Do you know the last time I saw my general practitioner? Trick question! I don't even have one since I moved six years ago! (That shrieking sound you heard is my mom and husband yelling at me to go to the damn doctor. I hear it every other week.)
So if your OB-GYN tries any of the following, it's basically a big red flag that it might be time to move on to someone new:
Sometimes an OB-GYN has to deliver hard truths. Their job, essentially, is to deliver babies and truth bombs. They might even scare you by sharing their medical expertise, which can suck and feel unfair even when they're required to give you information about risks and possibly bad outcomes. But it is never OK for them to threaten you.
For example, it's never OK for a doctor to threaten to call the police if you don't have a C-section when they want you to. And yes, that is a thing that has happened. They are not allowed to threaten to call child protective services if you refuse an induction, which happened with a friend of mine. Oh, don't worry: a lawyer set that OB straight).
Suggest "The Husband Stitch"
For the blissfully unaware, the "husband stitch" (also known as "the daddy stitch" or "the extra stitch") refers to the completely horrific idea that a woman should have her vaginal opening stitched to be smaller than it was before birth, after she delivers, so that she'll be "tighter" for her husband. Not. OK. At. All. Why? Oh, you k now, because it's gross, that's not how vaginas even work, it's inappropriate, sexist, and gross. Did I mention gross? Yeah, it's gross.
Make Disparaging Comments About Your Body
Whether it be about your weight, your postpartum vagina, or, in the case of my mom, subcutaneous fat that was visible while she was having a C-section (oh yes, that happened), it's not OK for anyone, least of all a medical professional to whom you have trusted with something as intimate as the delivery of your child and care of your person during pregnancy, to make a value judgment about your body.
Talk About "The Next Baby" When You Haven't
Whoa! Pump the brakes, dude, because having a child (or another child) is not something you should be the first to bring up. I mean, never mind that if the OB-GYN is in the picture, you're either still pregnant or just gave birth, so such talk is way premature, it's just presumptuous and bad manners besides.
Speak Flippantly About Miscarriage
It's easy to be cavalier about someone else's miscarriage, especially, I'd imagine, if you're an OB-GYN. After all, they are intimately aware that 10 to 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. They probably see patients going through miscarriage pretty frequently. But statistics do not take away from the pain a woman having a miscarriage, and that pain should be treated respectfully and delicately, especially by a doctor. Just because a baby wasn't yet visible to you, doesn't mean that it wasn't already in its mother's heart.
Talk About Losing Baby Weight
Unless you're seeing lack of weight loss as one of a suite of symptoms related to a more complicated or dangerous postpartum health issue, this is really just not a concern, particularly since most OB-GYNs are really only seeing their patients at an appointment six weeks after birth. It's completely reasonable not to have lost all of the weight one has gained by then. And yet so many women I have talked to have said their doctors have expressed disappointment that they hadn't lost all the weight, or at least hadn't lost more.
Dismiss Your Concerns
Here's what should happen when you tell your doctor something feels off. They should listen attentively to your symptoms, they should examine the problem to the best of their ability, and then they should make an assessment and give you advice on how to make things better. They should certainly follow up to see how things are going or, at the very least, encourage you to do so.
What they should not do is dismiss your pain — physical, mental, or emotional — as a non-issue. Even when there's nothing to worry about from a medical perspective, they should not brush aside feelings or symptoms, especially without looking into them further. Everyone has the right to be taken seriously by their doctor.
Get Too Opinionated About Breastfeeding
Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed, there is no wrong way to provide your baby with adequate nutrition. True, both forms of feeding have pros and cons and associated challenges, but at the end of the day breast milk and formula are both awesome.
Your OB-GYN should recognize that, support whatever decision you make, and not get preachy one way or the other. Even if they're trying to be "helpful" because more often than not being "helpful," even when it's well-meaning, is actually just undermining your goals or second-guessing your choices.
Get Pushy About Birth Control
Any good OB-GYN should to talking to you about family planning and birth control options. But when they start haranguing you and pressuring you to use certain options you aren't comfortable with? Not cool. For example: a lot of women don't like the side effects associated with hormonal birth control, but their doctors push it, nevertheless. Other women might, after research, opt for a copper IUD, only to be told other options are oh so much better.
There's lots of different ways to not have babies out there. An OB should give their input and then respect your decision.
Refuse Permanent Birth Control Until They Clear It With Your Partner
I've known so many women who have gone to their doctor requesting permanent sterilization and were denied specifically because the doctor told them he (always a he, by the way) wouldn't do it without their husband's permission.
Wait, what? Did I fall asleep and wake up in The Handmaid's Tale? Do husbands own their wives' reproductive systems these days? No, no, no, a million times no. Under the best circumstances this is sexist and creepy. In a worst case scenario a victim of abuse is once again put in the hands of the person who already controls her, and is now given carte blanche to control her medical decisions.
OB-GYNs: we respect you. We respect your knowledge and have chosen you to provide us with care during a monumentally important time in our lives. Please respect us back.
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