Although the journey to a healthy pregnancy and delivery begins with the selection of a healthcare provider; the challenge is to find the right one. This is the person who will be in charge of your pregnancy up until the time of the delivery, so it certainly is not a casual date. For the next 280 days, your life and the life of your unborn child will be in this person’s hands. A background check is therefore in order.

One of the best ways to find the right provider is by word-of-mouth referral from neighbors, friends or family members however please don’t stop there. Labor and delivery nurses are also a great source of referral because they have seen physicians and midwives under their most vulnerable and challenging moments. Once you have a name, you need to check the provider’s credentials. You can obtain this information from your local medical society or state medical board, and in many instances it can be verified online. In the appendix of The Smart Mother’s Guide, you will find the addresses, phone numbers and websites of the state medical boards in all fifty states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Please do not feel intimidated about checking a provider’s credentials; they are public information. You can find out whether the provider’s medical license is current or expired. You will also be able to obtain information on whether the provider was ever disciplined by the Board for medical malpractice or unprofessional behavior or misconduct. Health care providers are not exempt from problems with alcoholism, drug addiction, professional incompetence, unprofessional or unethical behaviors. Although less than 5 percent of providers have egregious problems, you want to make certain that your provider is not one of them.

Knowing how to check a provider’s credentials becomes especially important if you have relocated to a new community and are not familiar with healthcare providers.  It is also helpful if you belong to an HMA (health maintenance organization) that presents you with a limited selection of providers. If you discover that someone on that list has a history of problems, you have leverage in negotiating for a different provider.

Be unapologetically pro-active about checking the backgrounds of prospective healthcare providers            . A healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.