10 Questions That Could Save Your Life

What you need to ask the doctor when every moment counts.

By Pamela F. Gallin | MD from Reader's Digest | February 2007

No one plans to have an obstetrical emergency, but it does happen every day. Childbirth is often quite complicated and can put both mother and newborn in jeopardy. So if you’re pregnant and trying to decide where to deliver your baby, ask your obstetrician:

“Which types of doctors are always physically present in my hospital, in case I need them to take care of me and my baby in an emergency?”

Anesthesiologists are doctors who prescribe and administer anesthesia during surgery. They will be present in an operating room in the case of a cesarean section or premature labor or other serious complication. If possible, you should make sure there’s an anesthesiologist in the hospital at all times: reachable on the golf course or while out for dinner may not be good enough.

Newborns are patients, too, and have special requirements. Babies need to have a pediatrician working on-site. Your baby may need emergency treatment directly after birth, even if the delivery went smoothly.

The gold standard is a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit or reasonable access to one. This facility is used for all newborns with critical problems, not just for preemies. So shop around for a medical center with these services, and make sure your doctor is affiliated with the hospital where you want to deliver. (If you don’t have access to a hospital with all these features in your area, be sure to talk to your OB about an emergency contingency plan.)

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