Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Searching for Quality Maternal Care

My husband and I had another pre-natal doctor’s appointment today and again, the quality of the visit was disappointing compared to Bolivia. At my last appointment in Bolivia I received quite a bit of information. In addition to 3-D pictures, the doctor spent a good 45 minutes examining the fetus, he provided detailed and helpful responses to my questions and I learned a lot. I was told the fetus was almost one kilo, and was in the top 3% for height-weight at its point in development. He showed me a chart indicated that if that rate of growth continues, I could expect the baby to be between 3.5 and 4 kilos at birth (postnote: he was correct, the baby was born at just under 4 kilos).

The American doctor listened to the heartbeat and measured my abdomen, saying “OK.” That was it. The answers to our questions were extremely terse and I had the feeling we were taking his valuable time. We asked if there were any doulas he’d recommend. He gave us a single first name.

“Any ideas on how we could locate Gloria?” Mark asked.

I asked why he recommended this particular person. “Because she knows my name,” he said. “The other don’t.”

Is that really a reason why we’d hire someone? Because she knows the doctor’s name?

Mark’s impression is that the doctor is flakey and he isn’t impressed with the knowledge levels displayed by the staff we’ve had contact with. Now, when we still don’t have full confidence in our primary doctor, we have to begin to rotate through the other four doctors in the practice, so that we’ll have had at least five minutes of contact with the random person who will deliver our child.

It’s understandable, with such a low level of personalization, with no single individual really paying attention to the needs of the couple throughout the pregnancy process, that demand is growing for non-medical staff like doulas. I almost look back nostalgically to the local country doctor – the person who knew his client well, who was available to come in the middle of the night if necessary. Since doctors have moved so far from this model, people have to look elsewhere to find a person who will listen, provide personalized advice and promise to be available over a period of several months.

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