Why Your Doctor Matters

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I’ve got a dilemma and have to make a very important health related decision. I’m expecting my second child to arrive any day now. I have a wonderful doctor, but I’ve just been told he has to unexpectedly go away next week for five days. He’s suggested that if my baby hasn’t come by next Tuesday, in order to ensure he will be there for the baby’s birth, we artificially induce labour before he goes away. The decision I have to make (if baby doesn’t come in the next five days) is whether letting things take their own course is more important to me than having the doctor I know and trust with me during the labour.


Needless to say, the research I’ve been doing lately about the importance of the doctor-patient relationship is very much on my mind today. Through their words, attitudes, and behaviours, our healthcare providers can communicate critical information that can have a profound impact on our health – for better or for worse. When we see a doctor, nurse, or other health professional, a special and unique interaction takes place. For example, one study of patients with hypertension found a correlation between empathetic nurses and improved symptoms and quality of life. Another study demonstrated that doctors are far more effective at treating various symptoms such as cough, sore throat, tiredness, abdominal pain, and muscular pain if consultations are conducted in a positive rather than a negative manner. In fact, a review of research studies about the effectiveness of empathy in general medical practice found it is of “unquestionable importance.” I’ve also written recently about the power of words when it comes to health and how, over the last decade, negative suggestion has been shown to cause people to experience negative symptoms in treatments for everything from headache, to multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease and depression.


With my history of having been diagnosed with various autoimmune diseases over the years (first lupus, then Sjrogen’s disease, then fibromyalgia) as well as having had a complicated labour with my first child, I spent a great deal of time finding the right healthcare team for this pregnancy. I’ve carefully researched the hospital and over the last nine months I’ve come to know and trust my doctor. As you can imagine, I feel that having him with me during the upcoming labour is important. He has, of course, put into place a plan for if I go into labour while he’s away and I’ll be attended to by a trusted colleague of his, but not knowing this person is of some concern.


I’m not alone in feeling strongly that getting the care I need is about more than simply seeking expertise and technical competence. In 2013 Dignity Health in the US conducted a nation-wide survey and found that 87 percent of Americans feel that kind treatment by a physician is more important than other key considerations in choosing a healthcare provider, including average wait time before appointments, distance from home, and the cost of care. In fact, 72 percent of Americans would be willing to pay more for a physician who emphasised kindness when treating patients.


Being the thorough journalist that I am, naturally I’m hitting the research databases to take a look at the other side of this dilemma and checking out all the pros and cons related to induction of labour. With some luck, this little bubba is going to come along on their own in the next few days and I won’t have to decide. In the meantime, I’ll be going for some lovely long walks, eating some spicy food and have booked in for a massage. If you have any other anecdotal tips and tricks to encourage this little one along, they are most welcome in the comments below.

  • Hilary

    Hi Shannon, I haven't had my own babies, but when supporting some dear friends years ago I read everything I could get my hands on as well as asking everyone I met for their top tips for a healthy and positive childbirth. One tip that I think may have come from Ina-May Gaskin's book "Spritual Midwifery" suggested that massaging nipples can promote oxytocin release and encourage the onset of labour. I had another friend at the time who was really wanting her baby to arrive, and when I mentioned this tip in the supermarket one day she went home and tried it immediately, and her son was born into a bathtub of warm water under the central Australian starry skies later that night. A meaningful 'intervention' or coincidence? We'll never know, but a great story nonetheless… wishing you a wonderful and timely birthing. :) Hilary

  • Julia G

    Speak to karen pohlner bamboo spirit.

  • Francene Howe

    Hi Shannon, Trust your own instincts and your body first. Have faith that you and your baby will "know" (not at an intellectual level but a more energetic one) when the time is right, and whoever is there at that time will also be right for you (not very scientific I know!!) Chinese medicine has some good needling points for bringing on labour if you have a practitioner to discuss that option with? Best wishes and sending positive thoughts your way.

  • Barbara

    I agree with some of the others: don't hang the success of your labour and birth experience on this one person being there. In the end he might get some other emergency to attend while he's supposed to be with you. Be the empowered and knowledgeble person that you are (in spirit and in mind) and trust yourself and your own strength. I had an emergency cesarean with my first, that's when my complete trust was with the hospital staff. Later on I realised it wasn't a necessary operation and happened as a result of various doctor and midwife on duty interventions. Second child I gave birth to at home. I had to get away from the hospital to birth how I wanted to without the pressures and procedures as I was being coerced to have another c section due to baby being "in danger". I did it with my husband, a qualified homebirth midwife and her nurse assistant. They all had given birth at home before (apart from my husband of couse😀). Sometime during my 24 hour labour (maybe about 6cm) the midwife had to drive home half an hour away to breastfeed her very unsettled baby. I don't know if I was waiting for her return unconsiously or just naturally my labour slowed down and I wasn't "getting anywhere" for a long time. Anyway in the end I birthed my daughter when my body and mind was right and ready, the midwife had been back for some time and was instructing her helper how to catch my baby in the birthing pool. Although I truly understand your position about having the trusted birth professional there for you I think it is more important for you to be supported right by your partner, clearly communicated birth plan and you own belief in your instinct during the process. Good vibes to you and I trust it will be the most positive outcome.

  • Paola Alpago

    Hi Shannon, I agree with Francene, follow your instincts :)
    You can also get an app with the other doctor and have the chance to meet him and see how you feel with him. Not everything can be planned and the unexpected can happens…this might be an opportunity to go with the flow and meet another wonderful doctor…who knows? Keep thinking positive and believe in your instincts as they will guide in the right direction….things will be in the way they are meant to be. I wish you all the best!! Paola

  • Caitlin

    Hey Shannon, I had this exact dilemma when pregnant with Amelie. I had chosen a specific doctor because of his expertise and bedside manner which I thought would be beneficial to me after my traumatic previous experiences with pregnancy. He was amazing but was going on holiday 3 days after my due date. I ended up choosing to get induced one day after my due date as it was so important for him to be there. I'm so glad I went with that decision, he was amazing at the birth and I had the best labour and birth experience, partly due to him.
    Having said that I'm hoping to go into labour naturally this time but will still have the same doctor so hopefully it will be as positive again (got 9 weeks to go).
    Whatever you choose I hope the labour goes well and look forward to hearing about your new little Bub!

  • Brigid Maree O’Brien

    Have you considered 'talking' to your baby and asking him/her, in the best interest for both of you, to make his/her entrance when your trusted doc is in town? I had a breech presentation in my third trimester and did a meditation where I connected and 'communicated' with my baby asking her to turn, which she promptly did. Coincidence maybe but I like to think otherwise. Mother and baby are so closely linked, physically and spiritually, that if we can tune in to this connection amazing things are possible. As well as tuning into your baby I would also concur with the advice to tune into your intuition and to trust your body. Fear is a great inhibitor of labour….hypno birthing (by Marie Mongan) has some great tips to overcome this and also for inducing labour. I had medical inductions for both my labours and was afraid of ending up down the medical intervention slippery slope but either through good fortune or hypno birthing techniques had uncomplicated natural births. Sending good vibes to you and baby 😀

  • FW

    From my experience working on labour ward (as a student nurse at the time) & my understanding as a qualified nurse since, getting induced can make the labour more protracted & increase the risk of other interventions being needed. So that would be something I would bear in mind.

  • Keepthehope

    I can relate. Personally, I used to drive myself crazy striving for perfection when making a decision, etc. It wasn't until I learned from St. Teresa of Avila who said, "Self-reliance almost killed me", that I started practicing, after I made a decision, to let it go (give it to the Divine/God within me), similar to Dr. Craig's method of "Letting Go" or "Non-Attachment". I'm a work in progress :-)

  • Jeri Sanchez

    So I'll throw my 2 cents in , induction is not always a terrible idea IF your body is ready , meaning you are dilated to at least 2 cm and the baby's head is relatively low . ( you can tell this by how far up he has to reach to check you , and -1 is where u want to be. Getting induced if you are not ready still can work , but it's a longer and more painful process. Remember if you go into labor on your own , and wait at home till the contractions are super strong and regular , when you get to the hospital you won't care who is catching the little one . what ever you decide will be right for you and you will only know you made the right decision when you are all done . Best of luck !

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Thanks for your 2 cents Jeri…. your words are more valuable than that as far as I'm concerned though.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    I'm a work in progress too. :-)

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    I've been speaking to many many people in the last few days and have heard every story ranging at all ends of the scale on this one. It's certainly a tough one. I have decided to let things run their course rather than being induced at this stage.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Hi Brigid, this was a great idea. I've been having lots of 'chats' with my bubba, and the decision to let things happen when they happen actually became an easy one. I've also been doing lots of meditation, and using some of the hypno birthing techniques too. I find them to very useful when I feel the fear rising. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Thanks Paola. I have just successfully made the appointment with the other doc. Have also heard great things about him too.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    It is so wonderfully reassuring to hear a positive induction story Caitlin. The women in my family tend to go over due and have to be induced, so if this happens this time around, having heard this story, I'll feel much better about the process.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Hi Barbara, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and for sending the good vibes. I'm so happy to hear how well things turned out for you, and I appreciate your advice about trusting the process. As I'm not technically due for another few days and I've decided not to be induced early. I'm going to let things run their course, unless I go over due and there are medical reasons to induce.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Hi Francene,
    I have just returned from seeing a wonderful acupuncturist for the second time in the last two days. Having written a whole chapter in my new book about this very topic, I'm very aware of the powerful effect that the 'therapeutic encounter' can have in unlocking the body's natural systems. The treatments also helped me connect my mind and body and make the decision to just go with the flow. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Wow Hilary, what an amazing story. Thanks for the tip.

  • http://www.theconnection.tv/ Shannon

    Thanks Julia, I'm Sydney based. But have seen a wonderful practitioner here.

  • Barbara Martin

    Sounds like a great decision. I trust everything works out well for you. Take care

  • Jeri Sanchez

    While you're waiting check out the web site: spinningbabies.com
    Little tricks to get the baby engaged 😘

  • Mary Sanders

    Labor/childbirth even though hard can be one of the best experiences in your life I had 3 natural births & have been a labor & delivery nurse. Being really prepared which is too much to discuss here & realizing birth is a norman body experience is really important for your labor. The whole experience is a miracle & something to treasure. U & your husband or significant other are the key players in this process.

About the author: Shannon Harvey

Shannon Harvey is a journalist and producer who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when she was 24 years old. Although doctors meant well, none could offer her a cause or a cure. Since then Shannon has been researching the latest scientific research linking her mind and body to health outcomes. Nearly 10 years have passed since her diagnosis and today Shannon is well and not taking medication. Shannon has worked as a television, radio and online journalist and producer and has a Master’s degree in Communications. She worked for the ABC and Fairfax before starting her own production company, Elemental Media. Shannon is the director of the feature film The Connection.



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