Ten questions to ask your OB or midwife

Have you heard of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services?  They have developed a list of 10 questions to ask care providers, to be sure that the offered care is mother-friendly.  Go on, ask your OB or midwife these questions, and then comment below and let us know what they said!




Have you decided how to have your baby? The choice is yours!

Evidence based information from CIMS, Coalition for Improving Maternity Services:

First, you should learn as much as you can about all your choices.  There are many different ways of caring for a mother and her baby during labor and birth. Birthing care that is better and healthier for mothers and babies is called “mother-friendly.” Some birth places or settings are more mother-friendly than others.

A group of experts in birthing care came up with this list of 10 things to look for and ask about. Medical research supports all of these things. These are also the best ways to be mother-friendly.  When you are deciding where to have your baby, you’ll probably be choosing from different places such as:

  • birth center,
  • hospital, or
  • home birth service.

Here’s what you should expect, and ask for, in your birth experience. Be sure to find out how the people you talk with handle these 10 issues about caring for you and your baby. You may want to ask the questions below to help you learn more.

1. Ask, “Who can be with me during labor and birth?”

Mother-friendly birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services will let a birthing mother decide whom she wants to have with her during the birth. This includes fathers, partners, children, other family members, or friends.

They will also let a birthing mother have with her a person who has special training in helping women cope with labor and birth. This person is called a doula or labor support person. She never leaves the birthing mother alone. She encourages her, comforts her, and helps her understand what’s happening to her. They will have midwives
as part of their staff so that a birthing mother can have a midwife with her if she wants to.

2. Ask, “What happens during a normal labor and birth in your setting?”

If they give mother-friendly care, they will tell you how they handle every part of the birthing process. For example, how often do they give the mother a drug to speed up the birth? Or do they let labor and birth usually happen on its own timing?  They will also tell you how often they do certain procedures. For example, they will have a record of the percentage of C-sections (Cesarean births) they do every year.  If the number is too high, you’ll want to consider having your baby in another place or with another doctor or midwife.

Here are numbers we recommend you ask about.

  • They should not use oxytocin (a drug) to start labor for more than 1 in 10 women (10%).
  • They should not do an episiotomy (ee-peezee-AH-tummy) on more than 1 in 5 women (20%). They should be trying to bring that number down. (An episiotomy is a cut in the opening to the vagina to make it larger
    for birth. It is not necessary most of the time.)
  • They should not do C-sections on more than 1 in 10 women (10%) if it’s a community hospital. The rate should be 15% or less in hospitals which care for many high-risk mothers and babies. A C-section is a major operation in which a doctor cuts through the mother’s stomach into her womb and removes the baby through
    the opening. Mothers who have had a C-section can often have future babies normally. Look for a birth place in which 6 out of 10 women (60%) or more of the mothers who have had C-sections go on to have their other
    babies through the birth canal.

3. Ask, “How do you allow for differences in culture and beliefs?”

Mother-friendly birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services are sensitive to the mother’s culture. They know that mother and families have differing beliefs, values, and customs.  For example, you may have a custom that only women may be with you during labor and birth. Or perhaps your beliefs include a religious ritual to be done after birth. There are many other examples that may be very important to you. If the place and the people are mother-friendly, they will support you in doing what you want to do. Before labor starts tell your doctor or midwife special things you want.

4. Ask, “Can I walk and move around during labor?  What position do you suggest for birth?”

In mother-friendly settings, you can walk around and move about as you choose during labor. You can choose the positions that are most comfortable and work best for you during labor and birth. (There may be a medical reason for you to be in a certain position.) Mother-friendly settings almost never put a woman flat on her back with her legs up in
stirrups for the birth.

5. Ask, “How do you make sure everything goes smoothly when my nurse, doctor, midwife, or agency need to work with each other?”

Ask, “Can my doctor or midwife come with me if I have to be moved to another place during labor? Can you help me find people or agencies in my community who can help me before and after the baby is born?”  Mother-friendly places and people will have a specific plan for keeping in touch with the other people who are caring for you. They will talk
to others who give you birth care. They will help you find people or agencies in your community to help you. For example, they may put you in touch with someone who can help you with breastfeeding.

6. Ask, “What things do you normally do to a woman in labor?”

Experts say some methods of care during labor and birth are better and healthier for mothers and babies. Medical research shows us which
methods of care are better and healthier. Mother-friendly settings only
use methods that have been proven to be best by scientific evidence.

Sometimes birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services
methods that are not proven to be best for the mother or the baby. For
example, research has shown it’s usually not helpful to break
the bag
of waters.

Here is a list of things we recommend you ask about. They do
help and may hurt healthy mothers and babies. They are not proven to
be best for the mother or baby and are not mother-friendly.

  • They should not keep track of the baby’s heart
    rate all the
    time with a machine (called an electronic fetal monitor). Instead, it
    is best to have your nurse or midwife listen to the baby’s
    heart from
    time to time.
  • They should not break your bag of waters early in labor.
  • They should not use an IV (a needle put into your vein to
    give you fluids).
  • They should not tell you that you can’t eat or
    drink during labor.
  • They should not shave you.
  • They should not give you an enema.

A birth center, hospital, or home birth service that does
things for most of the mothers is not mother-friendly. Remember, these
should not be used without a special medical reason.

7. Ask, “How do you help mothers stay as comfortable as they can be? Besides drugs, how do you help mothers relieve the pain of labor?”

The people who care for you should know how to help you cope with
labor. They should know about ways of dealing with your pain that
use drugs. They should suggest such things as changing your position,
relaxing in a warm bath, having a massage and using music. These are
called comfort measures. Comfort measures help you handle your labor
more easily and help you feel more in control. The people who care for
you will not try to persuade you to use a drug for pain unless you need
it to take care of a special medical problem. All drugs affect the

8. Ask, “What if my baby is born early or has special problems?”

Mother-friendly places and people will encourage mothers and
families to touch, hold, breastfeed, and care for their babies as much
as they can. They will encourage this even if your baby is born early
or has a medical problem at birth. (However, there may be a special
medical reason you shouldn’t hold and care for your baby.)

9. Ask, “Do you circumcise babies?”

Medical research does not show a need to circumcise baby boys. It is painful and risky. Mother-friendly birth places discourage circumcision unless it is for religious reasons.

10. Ask, “How do you help mothers who want to breastfeed?”

The World Health Organization made this list of ways birth
services support breastfeeding.

  • They tell all pregnant mothers why and how to breastfeed.
  • They help you start breastfeeding within one hour after
    your baby is born.
  • They show you how to breastfeed. And, they show you how to
    your milk coming in even if you have to be away from your baby for work
    or other reasons.
  • Newborns should have only breast milk. (However, there may
    be a medical reason they cannot have it right away.)
  • They encourage you and the baby to stay together all day
    and all night. This is called “rooming-in.”
  • They encourage you to feed your baby whenever he or she
    wants to nurse, rather than at certain times.
  • They should not give pacifiers
    (“dummies” or “soothers”) to
    breastfed babies.
  • They encourage you to join a group of mothers who
    breastfeed. They tell you how to contact a group near you.
  • They have a written policy on breastfeeding. All the
    employees know about and use the ideas in the policy.
  • They teach employees the skills they need to carry out
    these steps.

Would you like to give this information to your doctor,
midwife, or
nurse? This information is taken from the Mother-Friendly Childbirth
Initiative written for health care providers. You can get a copy of
the Initiative for your doctor, midwife, or nurse by mail, e-mail, or
on the Internet.

To Get a Copy by Mail For a copy of both this brochure and the
Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative by mail, send a stamped,
self-addressed envelope with $5 (US) to help cover the costs ($6 Canada
or Mexico, $10 all others). Bulk prices are available. Mail to:
Coalition for Improving Maternity Services 1500 Sunday Drive, Suite 102
Raleigh, NC 27607

To Get a Copy on the Internet Log on to to

Contact CIMS Tel: 888-282-CIMS (2467) • Fax:
919-787-4916 E-mail: info@motherfriendly.org

© 2000 Coalition for Improving Maternity
Services (CIMS).

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2 Responses to Ten questions to ask your OB or midwife

  1. Kim says:

    I think it is very important to interview you care giver. I never did and just went with who I had used before. Wish I had talked to several doctors and had known all my options. I like this list of questions. The only thing I wish the mother-friendly Initiative would change would be #9. Infant circumcisions are not necessary regardless of religion. Let the individual decide when he/she is old enough to do so if they want to follow a religion that expects circumcision.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, exactly! I was surprised when I found out that as often than not it’s the OB who performs the circumcisions. http://intactnews.org/node/91/1310657919/obgyn-chairman-calls-end-quotcontroversialquot-routine-infant-circumcision-obgyn- Also, in some facilities they do them routinely unless the parents have stated a preference otherwise. So it makes sense to be sure your care provider is on board with your views beforehand, to cut down on your chances of an accidental mixup.

      Oh, and as far as religion goes, more and more Jewish parents are choosing to leave their sons intact, or to perform the type of circumcision that was practiced in the Bible, which is the removal of the very tip of the foreskin rather than a total amputation. (The Hebrew word for “circumcision” actually means “to blunt” or “to cut short” which is different from the words for “to remove” or “to destroy”. :) )