There may be a few things you don’t realize about being a good patient during pregnancy and at the hospital. After all, you probably aren’t pregnant, giving birth or in the hospital very often in your life. Thank goodness, right?
But the team of doctors, nurses and technicians that take care of you during pregnancy, labor & delivery and anti-partum are accustomed to dealing with people in your situation day-in and day-out. Your medical team has probably done it all and seen it all when it comes to pregnancy, labor, delivery, newborn care and taking care of moms after childbirth. With all of their experience, they most certainly know what they are doing to ensure you and your baby are healthy. Your role as a patient is to support your medical team in that same goal, and there are some key components to being a good patient.
First of all, select doctors who you feel comfortable talking to and who you feel have the right expertise to meet your needs. Many women prefer female OBGYNs while others disregard gender and look for other qualities in their doctor. Some practices have nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and mid-wives who you may see during some pregnancy visits. Know how your practice operates to ensure you are comfortable seeing others besides your primary OB. Also, keep in mind that childbirth sometimes comes unexpectedly so a different provider in your practice may end up delivering your baby. If you have a specific vision during labor and delivery such as a water birth or silent birth, make sure your practice will support your wishes.
It is essential that you are always honest with your doctors and nurses during pregnancy and while at the hospital. Their job is to evaluate you not judge you, so don’t be ashamed to tell them about your lifestyle habits, diet, exercise, symptoms or mental and emotional wellbeing. Your medical team should have a full picture of your health in order to treat you appropriately. A small issue to you may be a sign of a larger problem to a trained professional so be forthcoming about your health.
Also, do not be embarrassed in front of the medical professional at your doctor’s office and the hospital. Child bearing is not a time for modesty and it’s a rare situation when private parts are no longer private. Many strange and unusual things happen to your body during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. You will have to quickly learn that talking about these things and even showing them off are just part of being a new mom.
You have trusted your medical team with your health so when they give you advice, you should follow it within reason. And if you don’t follow medical advice, don’t be surprised by the results. Doctors and nurses can only help you if you’re willing to help yourself. If you feel you have “mushy mommy brain,” write down your doctors’ and nurses’ instructions so you can revisit it later.
All of this is not to say you should take advice blindly without fully understanding the rationale of the recommendation, however. After all, you know yourself and what feels right even if you don’t know all of the science behind it. Ask questions when you are unclear about your physician’s orders, especially when it comes to medication. Medical professionals are there to answer your questions and address concerns so be vocal. In the hospital, make your goals clear to your anti-partum nurses. If you plan to breastfeed and have your baby sleep in your room, make sure you tell your nurses so they can honor your wishes.
When you do speak up, remember to be respectful to everyone, even the receptionist at your OBGYN office and the housekeeper at the hospital. Being demanding and condescending will not speed up your test results, get you a better appointment time or change your health status, but it may anger and frustrate your medical team. Treat these “teammates” with kindness and esteem – they are only there to help you and your baby.
Additionally, an important part of being a good patient is patience. Certainly request a speedy response if you have an emergency, but otherwise, know that your team is doing their best to treat you along with their other patients. They are dealing with hundreds of people who have similar needs as you. If your appointment takes forever, remember that if you were having a problem or delivering your baby, you’d want your doctor to take as much time as he needed and give you undivided attention. If you find that you are not getting a timely response to something such as test results that don’t arrive when promised, place a courteous call to your doctor’s office.
When you’re a good patient you will improve your entire pregnancy, childbirth and anti-partum experience. Remember, being a good patient is not about being complacent, but rather respectful, trusting, honest and responsible.
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