Everyone is talking about the maternal health crisis lately. Countless expecting Black women have reported negative experiences searching for quality care in the maternal health space. Compounded with the fact that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related crisis than white women, it’s no wonder why there’s an outcry for radical change in maternal health.

For Black women, knowing how to advocate for your health can be a matter of life and death. Equally as important is finding the right hospital and doctor who will provide quality care. According to Richmond-area OBGYN Nicole Rankins, not all OBGYNs provide the same level of care.

Misinformation in Maternal Health

In a recent Instagram post, Rankins’ called out the prevalence of misinformation around maternal health topics, like induction, intermittent monitoring and eating/drinking during labor. She specifically highlighted common misinformation surrounding trial of labor after cesarean and vaginal birth after cesarean.

Common misinformation issues Rankins sees are doctors who overstate the risks of uterine rapture and falsely claim that you can’t be induced or receive pitocin with trial of labor after a cesarean. She also commonly notices doctors claim that you can’t attempt trial of labor after two cesarean births or misconstrue the reason a person can’t have it.

Education and Awareness Are Critical

Rankins’ post ruffled a few feathers, and numerous OBGYNs let her know they were offended in the comments. Nonetheless, her post highlighted an important truth: Not all OBGYNs are the same. While there are OBGYNs who mislead and mistreat patients, there are many providing exceptional care. 

It is important to educate yourself, in order to decipher if your doctors are telling you accurate information and providing quality care. The selection process for your OBGYN is also crucial. When it comes to selecting the right doctor, Rankins says that it’s helpful for women to ask their friends, family or mom groups for recommendations. 

“Trust your gut,” she encouraged. “If something doesn’t feel right, then listen to that, and don’t be afraid to change doctors.”

Rankins explained that sometimes it can be hard to discern quality care, especially since niceness doesn’t equal quality. This is why educating yourself on what to expect is critical. Education might look like a formal class, reading books or listening to podcasts. Rankins explained that understanding your options and what’s happening in your body is key to knowing what to expect and being able to advocate for the things that are important to you. She also stressed the importance of trusting your instincts. 

“You know yourself better than anyone else,” she said. “You are the expert on you.”

What to Ask a Potential OBGYN

Rankins explained that you’re not just choosing a doctor when you’re pregnant, but you’re also choosing the hospital. Many doctors only work at a specific hospital, so ask about the hospital where they do deliveries.

If an OBGYN ever gets defensive when you ask questions or they are dismissive of your concerns, those are red flags, Rankins said.

“You want your doctor to make you feel like they are supporting the things that are important to you, not just tolerating them,” she said.

When selecting an OBGYN, some questions a couple or an expecting mother should ask are:

  • “How do you typically approach pregnancy and birth care?
    An expecting mom should share that she is looking for an approach of whatever she wants (low intervention, unmedicated, etc).Then, she should pay attention to not just what the response is but how they respond.
  • Do you have any “non-negotiables?”
    Examples might include induction by a certain point in the pregnancy or continuous monitoring during labor. This isn’t good or bad per se, but you just want to know if it aligns with what is important to you.
  • How does your practice work?
    This question will lead to more specific questions such as: Will I only see you or will I see other doctors? Who will be there for my birth? What do I do when I have questions outside of my appointments? What happens if I need an urgent appointment? How soon can I typically expect to be seen?