My OB/GYN Gave Me Pregnancy Stress:
Why I Had To Change Obstetricians
Today I want to talk about obstetricians and pregnant women. This is a VERY long story since I had to provide a LOT of back history to catch up to speed on my situation, but every expectant woman needs to know that THIS isn’t normal treatment. You should walk into your OB/GYN office with confidence and a smile (sort of). This is a relationship that should be based on trust, honesty, and the ability to feel comfortable and casual while maintaining a professional balance. First, let me explain where I am coming from and what the heck is going on over here. As you may know, I am now 30-weeks pregnant with my little girl. My first pregnancy was a landslide compared to this time around — and that means everything from my mood, symptoms, and OB/GYN experiences.
My obstetrician during my first pregnancy was spectacular. With 3 doctors in the practice, I was required to alternate between the 2 that were still delivering (one was on "strike" due to malpractice insurance costs, which was cool with me!). Luckily, I was very pleased with both of them and enjoyed how personable they were (saying hello to me in the hallway — KNOWING my name, too!).
There was one occasion where I walked out of the office around my 5th month. I was agitated, hormones raging, and got tired after waiting 25-minutes to see the doctor. I flipped out a bit — and walked out. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call from one of the OB’s within 15-minutes of leaving. He reminded me just how important it is to attend all visits and while he completely understood my impatience due to hormonal imbalances, I had to come back tomorrow. He calmed me down, lent me a few laughs at his wife’s expense (apparently she did the same thing while pregnant with his son — walking out of HIS practice before seeing his partner in week 32!).
Unfortunately, I cannot see my previous obstetricians this time around since I have a different insurance plan. I was sad, but sure I could find another one. After all… I’m in New York City. There just has to be another reputable obstetrician (right?!?). I went through absolute hell during my first few weeks of pregnancy. Migraines were running 24/7 and nausea wasn’t going anywhere. I booked an appointment with an obstetrician that I found in "the book" and headed to my first appointment around 9-weeks.
Woah- stop the presses! During my next visit 4-weeks later, I learn that my insurance isn’t valid. What do you MEAN it isn’t valid? I call my insurance and learn that both my son and I haven’t had an active plan since February 2012. That means my 3-year-old was walking around without health insurance for nearly 4-5 months! But, but… why? No reason. Honest mistake, but one that I would be responsible for paying.
I went through absolute hell trying to get our insurance activated again. It was a nightmare. What hoops I had to jump through as a pregnant woman for health insurance was a travesty. No one should have to deal wit such anxiety and aggravation — let alone a pregnant woman trying to insure herself and toddler!
Long story short, I continued with the new obstetrician and felt "okay". I wasn’t ecstatic, but okay. The doctor was quick, but I didn’t really mind. So long as he cared enough to pay attention to the health of our end goal (easy pregnancy and a healthy baby), I was pleased. Well, for now.
I went for my first trimester blood work in July 2012 and it came back that I was a carrier for Fragile X Syndrome. It was the same story as my first pregnancy and I told him I had decided after my first amniocentesis that it would be my last amniocentesis. The pain and stress (waiting 3+ weeks for results) was too much to bare. I would let him know, but for now it was a ‘no’. His voice seemed bothered. Was I making a bad choice? Am I acting irrationally and being a bad mom? Clearly he thought so.
Of course I began to think about the amnio and my unborn baby. Maybe I should just do it. Maybe I should go with my gut and skip it. I played tug-o-war with this decision and my husband was okay with whatever I decided to do. During the following visit, I began to see the very true colors of this office. For starters, I was refused a visit unless I paid part of my balance. Because my insurance company cut me off "mistakenly", I was left with a $300 balance. All I had to do was pay this off by the time I was delivering my baby (or else, what? hold my baby hostage?). No problem!
Yes, problem. Since I came unprepared to make a payment, I was refused a visit. I had to go home (45-minute drive) and book another appointment. I was VERY annoyed, but life went on. I scheduled another visit. Of course I had a bit of words with the nasty receptionist. She reminded me of a high school cheerleader at a keg party. Not cool.
I returned to the office next week and I paid $150 towards my balance. Awesome. Now I could see the doctor. Fantastic, right? Nope. During the visit, I told my obstetrician that I had decided to go ahead with an amnio. His head whipped around from jotting down notes (which likely included scribbled drawings of his dog, or endless circles so that he could look busy). He bowed his head and peered his eyes at me over his glasses. "Are you serious? Why!?", he asked in an asinine tone.
Not knowing why I had to explain myself at all, I began to explain myself. I wasn’t thrilled with the decision, but felt it would stop the worries that I felt. He huffed, puffed, and nearly blew down my 24-week pregnant belly. He shrugged me off and said it was ridiculous, but "whatever". He handed me a paper and said, "…then call them". The end. After his attitude and reaction, I went home and did more thinking. I was already stressed out about the amnio and hadn’t even booked an appointment. Forget it. Back to my original decision against it.
One month later, I returned to the office for another appointment. Things weren’t going to go well today. I knew it. I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 25-minutes all while the office building was in plain site. I was only 100-feet away from the office and moving 1" inch every 10 minutes (no lie!). I just knew something would go wrong.
As soon as I parked the car and let my son out of his carseat, I remembered that balance that I owed. I searched my car, but realized I had only taken $20.00 along for the ride incase of an emergency. Traveling with a 3-year-old means something will ALWAYS come up even though I stocked my bag with snacks and juice…. and just INCASE. It shouldn’t be a problem. I paid $150 of my $300 balance at my last visit. I had another 4.5 months to zero that balance out, so they’d surely see me.
Boy was I wrong! Money talks or the patient walks. I was asked for payment seconds after walking into the office. When I told her I had absolutely nothing on me (no way was I going to reveal that $20 bill stuck in my back pocket), I was asked how we could get that money. She would have taken $1.00 if it was the last of my savings!
"Do you have …. a credit card?"
"I just told you that I left my wallet at home. I have a credit card though. Yes, I do."
"Can we call someone with a credit card?"
"I’m sure you can. Call anyone you want and they’ll probably have one, too!"
(Here’s where I started to get upset and loud):
"Can you go home and get your wallet and reschedule for tonight?"
Are you KIDDING me! I just drove here with my son and sat in the worst traffic ever and you want me to turn around and go through all of that AGAIN? You lost your damn mind.
I walked out — never to be seen again (until I had to retrieve my medical records). Trying to get my records took 6-weeks and actually having to GO THERE and stage a sit down protest. I caused a bit of a scene (okay- it was HUGE), but these animals refused a 7-month pregnant woman her records, which meant NO ONE would see me without them, which meant NO prenatal care. I was told it was going to take another week, but sat there and refused to move.
I got those records 12-minutes into my protest.
Victory was mine!
The next day I would see a brand new obstetrician. Things were looking up! First thing I did was sit down with someone asking medical questions and family history. No idea who she was. Next I would have a sonogram internally and externally. I won’t go into detail, but this was a VERY unprofessional technician and she requested for me to "hold" something for a few minutes, which was the most uncomfortable moment of my life. It was unbelievable. I watched her take measurements of my baby and something about the way she was doing things seemed "off".
Next room up was the exam room (I really enjoyed dragging my son from room to room. Total by the end of our visit: 9 ROOMS). I sat impatiently waiting for the male doctor that I had requested, which turned out to be a female doctor — and a random entrance and swift exit of several other people. There is no more irritating than random nurses busting into the exam room while you spit out your personal medical history to a new doctor (or, familiar physician). I can always gauge an honest versus careless physician when they neglect or remember to tell me who the stranger is that has entered the room. FOUR random "nurses" (I guess?) entered and exited the room during the 15-minutes that I was with the doctor. They would enter, stand in the corner listening, and leave within 3-5 minutes. Strange..?
The doctor began asking me all sorts of questions, which seemed normal at first. She was basically picking up my pregnancy at the end, so she would of course have questions. I provided my medical records, but of course my previous obstetrician omitted doctor notes. I filled her in on the basics: no complications during my first pregnancy (except for an amnio and emergency c-section). Yes, I want a c-section and have no interest in VBAC. No, I do not smoke, do drugs, or drink alcohol (ever). I am anemic and have no family history worth sharing. Everything is a-okay. Let’s go.
She proceeded to tell me that she was picking up an "odor" that "represented tobacco". This was interesting, especially since I haven’t smoked in years. No one in my immediate family nor in our home is a smoker, so where was this coming from? I felt like she just wanted to make me feel awkward. It didn’t make sense at all! The way she was looking at me made me feel very uncomfortable. She asked about drugs, but didn’t just ask — she lectured. I was confused. Did I have a handful of drugs in my hands that would give her a feeling that I was on drugs? Maybe it was because I was so frazzled and already confused about the entire past 2-HOURS that I had spent in her office. I was sure that my appearance looked tired and ragged, but I was 30-weeks pregnant and just dragged my 3-year-old around an office for 2-HOURS. Gimme a break! I completely understand an obstetrician asking a pregnant woman IF she does drugs, but let’s move on at "no" and talk about what else needs to be discussed. My patience ran out after the 5th exam room change.
The next remark made by this woman really irritated me and set me off, but I didn’t quite grasp how angry I would actually become until I was in my car later on. Apparently my unborn daughters head was growing 3-days behind schedule. Everything was perfect and readings measured at 29 weeks 5 days, but her head measured 29 weeks 2 days. This was apparently reason to cause alarm and submit my urine for a drug test without my consent (interesting). This woman continued to lecture me about drugs and smoking, so much as to lead me to believe that maybe I was smoking and boozing it up on weekends. Maybe THAT is why I have felt so tired and lethargic lately. Maybe I am just hungover?
I could feel my face drawing the blankest expression ever known to man. I had no questions since I couldn’t even begin to stomach what she was saying. She also told me that my fluids were perfect, but they were low in September (another thing my ex-OB failed to tell me. Awesome…). At this point, I realized that I cannot trust anything that is thrown my way by a "medical professional". I lost all faith and clearly had to depend on my own motherly instincts — and the Internet, too!
She said that I would need to have some blood work done. This part of the conversation was awesome:
"Have you completed any blood work during this pregnancy?"
"Yeah.. if you actually look right there – THAT page in my file that you are.. looking at. That’s the results for my blood work that I had done during my first trimster"
"Okay, well we actually like to do more testing than other doctors. These are basically for… extra precautionary measures"
Huh? Okay. I don’t get it.
I really wanted to get out of there and felt like I was in the Matrix meets Twilight Zone. The staff resembled a group of killer zombies and the doctor… well, she was creepy and making me feel much more uncomfortable than I’d ever felt in my life. They told me to head to the front desk and book my next appointment. They would deliver my ‘sample’ and a blood test request to use at the lab down the hallway. Okay, fine. I did that, got my ‘sample’ and headed down the hallway to a lab (unrelated to their office).
Once I made my way into the hallway, I decided to open up the plastic bag with my ‘sample’ and see what tests they were requesting. I was curious, but more so suspicious. Low and behold, I was amazed and pissed off:
This is a joke, right?
I was SO irritated and in shock that I had to take a picture, or else this would likely be a nightmare. Well, I was living a nightmare altogether, but if I didn’t snap the picture above — I would have thought that I was delirious at the time (and maybe DRUNK, apparently). It’s hard to see from the photo, but the dark black typing below the nurses handwriting asks for patient consent signatures. Notice that is blank.
What do I do? Part of me wanting to stomp straight into that lunatic obstetricians office and yell, "How DARE you!", but I knew that would likely raise some red flags. What was I hiding? If I decided to object to the testing, I would probably look like I was guilty. I decided to just do the damn test and ask her later on. Well, no. I am never going to see that woman again. Luckily, I selected a practice with nearly a dozen obstetricians, so I will be seeing someone else during my next visit. However, I will be calling on Monday to ask her how the results came out for my ‘blood work‘. Clearly she isn’t going to tell me about my drug test since I’m not supposed to know about it, so I’ll ask her.
I will also ask her what planet she lives on that it is okay to treat a pregnant woman like this. I want her to tell me what part of our conversation, or maybe my appearance, screamed out to her that I was high and drunk. I need to know why she automatically assumes that a pregnant woman is doing drugs, smoking, or boozing bottles left and right just because the fetus head circumference is 3-days behind. Does she know anything about fetus growth spurts not occurring simultaneously? While my daughter may have experienced a torso growth spurt the day before, I wouldn’t be surprised if the day before resulted in her arms and legs growing. The next day she might have decided to do a little brain growth, too.
Fetus’ do not necessarily grow all parts at once, but rather experience different regions of growth. Each day brings something new for pregnancy, so it shouldn’t be an obstetricians right to cause this tremendous level of anxiety for a pregnant woman. We’re already freaking out about every other stressful issue in our lives, so packing in the fact that SOMETHING is wrong and now we must treat you like a criminal delinquent drunk is annoying and aggravating.
Ladies… Do not feel afraid to change obstetricians in the middle or last trimester of your pregnancy. Whether you feel uncomfortable during week 8, 15, 25, or 30 – it’s YOUR body, YOUR baby, and YOUR emotions that are being screwed with. Speak up and tell your obstetrician that while you always want them to be honest and upfront with you, it is unacceptable to assume and accuse in such a fashion that makes you feel uncomfortable and stamps a red "CRIMINAL" stamp across your forehead. You are a beautiful, pregnant, and emotional being that is looking for the best advice and guidance for 9-months. We don’t expect to be treated like this and certainly do not want to leave our OB’s office every month with a frown on our faces.
..and SPEAK UP! As someone that relies on Internet reviews in order to find a trusted and reliable physician, I would also encourage you to conduct an Internet search for places where you can post a review/experience for your doctors. Whether your experience has been positive or negative, sharing your story will help someone else out when they need to select a new doctor. Anonymity is never a problem on medical review sites, so please be honest (and setup a new email address with a fake name if you are afraid your doctor will know it is you).
What’s next…? I’m not sure. I have to go for a high-risk sonogram to take more detailed measurements to make sure my daughters head is measuring smaller. "Then what?"… This obstetrician wants to deliver early. That makes sense. Let’s deliver early because her head circumference is 3-days behind the rest of her measurements and place her in the NICU. Sigh. If this OB/GYN office does request early delivery, I know what my next move is going to be: second opinions.
UPDATE (December 1, 2012):
My lovely OB/GYN called the other day to let me know that I have "a very rare and serious form of anemia called thallesemia". Wow, brilliant! Tell me something I haven’t known since birth!
She also told me everything else is "perfect and okay"… and I asked HER, "So.. ALL of those WEIRD tests that you ran were CLEAN?"…
"I’m not sure what you mean?"
"No? Wow, surprising since you ordered the tests. Toxicology report? Hmm.. well, thanks anyway. Buh-bye".
No, I will not be seeing this obstetrician ever again. Thankfully I have nearly a dozen other OB’s to choose from on their letterhead. Whew.