When Your OB is on Vacation
In between her heavy pants through her contractions, I hook up the new momma to the fetal monitors and switch on the computer. Based on her wide-eyed, wild looks and her contractions kicking off steady and strong on the monitors, I don’t think it will be long before she is holding her baby in her arms.
“Who is your doctor?” I ask, busying myself with the endless forms while we still have some time.
She names the doctor that has just left for vacation, breathing through another contraction, this time with her eyes shut.
“Well, that doctor is currently out on vacation,” I say as gently as I can. “The doctor on call will be the one taking care of you and your baby today. Her name is Dr. Smith.”
“Oh,” she replies, looking up at me suddenly.
She pauses, tears starting to form at the corner of her eyes.
“But I have never even heard of her,” she whispers, looking back down at her stomach as it tightens again.
If you are expecting, especially if this is your first baby, be sure to talk to your doctor about on-call and delivery shift rotations at the hospital, so you can anticipate ahead of time if you need to be prepared for the possibility of another doctor delivering your baby.
For women who have developed a close relationship with their healthcare providers, especially those women who are expecting their first babies, the fact that their doctor might not be the one to deliver them on their big day can come as a shock.
It can be hard, in the midst of the pain and fear that labor can bring, along with the sometimes overwhelming experience of being admitted to the hospital, to hear the news that you will also have to be cared for by a completely different doctor — and maybe someone you have never even met before.
While some doctors, especially those in larger practices, may be open with their patients from the beginning of their pregnancies about any changeovers in care, some choose not to disclose any vacation plans or time-off near due dates. Larger practices may try to circumvent women feeling “handed-off” on their due date by having them rotate care providers throughout their pregnancies, thereby increasing the chances that they will receive a doctor at delivery that they have actually met before.
Unfortunately, some women prefer a closer, one-on-one relationship with a healthcare provider, so the rotating model of care does have some drawbacks.
If you are expecting, especially if this is your first baby, be sure to talk to your doctor about on-call and delivery shift rotations at the hospital, so you can anticipate ahead of time if you need to be prepared for the possibility of another doctor delivering your baby. Sometimes, just the knowledge ahead of time can help ease your mind.
Also, don’t be afraid, if you have a really good relationship with your doctor, to ask if there is any way that she would be willing to be “on call” for you. Some doctors will make exceptions, even if they are not scheduled to work, to be with their patients when requested.
Did you deliver with a different OB than the one that cared for you during your pregnancy?