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Caitlin Brody

When (and How) To Break Up With Your OB

Sometimes, it’s just not working out. Here’s how to know when to switch OBs and how to end it gracefully.

From awkward first interviews to relying on friends for personal recommendations, finding the right OB is kind of like dating. You want the doctor-patient relationship to be perfect. And most important, you want it to last. And while your OB knows you inside and out (literally), it’s also important to realize that you always have permission to call it quits. “Don’t feel guilty,” says Faith Tanney, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC. “You hired them”—and you shouldn’t feel bad about “firing” them, so to speak. So what are the signs it’s time to split, and how can you do it without making a scene? Read on.

When to Leave Your OB

Here are some common—and more than acceptable—reasons why a patient might want to leave her doctor.

She’s not listening

“My OB asked if this was my first pregnancy. I told her no; I miscarried in February. I think a doctor should read your file before coming into the room.” –enion76fl

If your ob-gyn still refers to your time on the NuvaRing when you’ve told her numerous times you were on the Pill, chances are she hasn’t really been listening to you. We all have days where we’re frazzled (and you certainly should allow some wiggle room), but it’s her job to know your medical history. On the flip side, she can’t remember info that you don’t provide, so you’ve got to be sure you’ve laid it all out before jumping the gun, says Shoshana Bennett, PhD, a clinical psychologist. Have you shared all your thoughts, fears or concerns about a pregnancy? At home, jot down things throughout the week that you want to mention or ask, and make sure you hit on each one during your appointment.

She’s disrespectful

“I just had a few questions, and my OB cut me off before I could even start asking.” –cdobry01

If your OB doesn’t respect your beliefs or answer your questions, that’s most definitely breakup material, Bennett says. Your OB needs to be open-minded and respectful. Of course, you should look to her for expert advice, but if she’s defensive or inflexible when talking about your choices, you may want to look elsewhere.

She (or the hospital she’s affiliated with) isn’t aligned with your birth plan

“My ob-gyn was always rushed, but I saw him only once in a year so it didn’t matter. Once I was pregnant, I wanted someone who wouldn’t rush too quickly into a c-section, and I wasn’t sure he’d be that person.—Amy Y.

You might like (or tolerate) your doctor as your gynecologist. But when you’re having a baby, it’s a whole different ball game. For one, you’ll be seeing your doctor much more frequently. What’s more, experts believe your hospital, and not your doctor, could have more of an influence on how your delivery goes down, so you may decide to switch doctors simply because you’d like to switch hospitals. Your doctor should be able to respect that, Tanney says.

How To Break It Off (Gently)

Keep in mind, you’re not obligated to do anything when you break up—you can simply sign up with another doctor, get your records sent to the new practice and fall off the face of the earth. But if you have a history with your doctor—and because it’s just simply a polite thing to do—it’s worth letting your doctor know, Tanney says. Besides, your feedback can help her be better with her other patients, and it’ll probably make you feel better about the situation. What matters most here is your comfort level–it’s all up to you, Bennett says. Here’s what to keep in mind.

Do it in person

Whether you just want to see a change in your relationship or break up altogether, doing it face to face is best. Schedule a consultation to chat. If you’re going to be charged for it, then it’s okay to simply wait ’til the very end of your last appointment to have the discussion, Tanney says. Otherwise, try to schedule some time on the phone. If you have to, compose a thoughtful email. Avoid texting (that’s just rude).

Don’t be angry

Bennett advises not to go into your meeting angry, which, like with any confrontation, definitely won’t get you the results you’re looking for. Be firm and assertive, and have your thoughts clearly planned out so you can make the most of the meeting. If you have a tendency to get heated, have a friend or partner come with you to the appointment (or be with you at the phone call) to keep things level-headed. If you’re emailing, have someone you trust take a look before you press send.

Be direct

Express your concerns to the best of your ability, so your OB knows exactly what the issues are. In addition, if you’re planning to have your baby with another provider, let your current OB know as early in your pregnancy as possible, says Tanney. Need some talking points for a successful breakup? Here, a few pointers for broaching the subject:

• Start on a positive note. Bennett suggests something along the lines of: “You’ve been great in the past, but here’s what I’ve been experiencing lately that has been making me very unhappy….” If you’re switching doctors because you found another hospital or provider who better aligns with your birth plan, then tell her so. For instance, Tanney suggests: “I really like you as my gynecologist, but to deliver my baby, I’ve decided to go elsewhere because….”

• Be specific. If it’s a particular problem that’s making you leave, provide details: “When I called on Tuesday the 23rd, I was put on hold for 15 minutes…” If you’re having someone else deliver your baby, explain what you’re looking for. You may want to see if your doctor is actually willing or able to provide the things you’re looking for.

• Be honest. For instance: “I felt that you were looking down on me at our last appointment when I mentioned my sexual history…” Or: “I don’t think I’ll be able to have the birth experience I’m hoping for with this practice (or at this hospital)...”

• Thank her before you leave. Acknowledge her service. You can simply say: “Thank you for all of your help. I’ve appreciated it…” And if you’re going elsewhere to deliver, you can even leave the door open and let her know you might be coming back.

Updated November 2017