I know how nerve-racking it can be to find an OBGYN provider that you can be comfortable with. It’s important to feel safe with and to be able to trust your provider. Upon the recommendation of a friend, I started seeing one of the midwives, Sherriann Perivolotis, for well care at AFA Concord. When I got pregnant, it made sense for me to stay with AFA OBGYN (aka All Female Associates). I’m really glad I did.
Locations: AFA OBGYN Westford and AFA Concord
Let’s start with the basics. AFA has several locations (Westford, Concord, and Leominster), which can be helpful or annoying depending on where you are and what provider you want to see (I found it helpful). I never had a chance to visit AFA Leominster, so I can’t speak to that location.
Because of the pandemic, I preferred to receive most of my care at AFA OBGYN Westford, even though AFA Concord is closest to my home. The AFA Concord office is located at Emerson Hospital, and the staff and all the other patients I interacted with always wore their masks and followed precautions, but I still preferred not to be at the hospital. For what it’s worth, I gave birth in early 2021 when Covid vaccines had just come out, and even at that time, I was told by one of the midwives that all the staff in the practice had chosen to be vaccinated. They seemed to do a great job at looking out for their patients’ health and safety.
The AFA Team
I really appreciated that this practice has the best of both worlds: a team of respected OBGYNs AND a team of very capable certified nurse midwives (CNMs). AFA OBGYN is also affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Perinatology Department, and I think that a couple B&W doctors frequent AFA Concord once or twice per week. I actually met with one of them for my 20-week ultrasound because I had a small issue that ended up not actually being an issue. She was upbeat and kind, and I felt like she heard and addressed my questions.
My pregnancy was low-risk, so I was seen only by the midwives (which was extra convenient for me since all but one frequently rotated at AFA Westford). I could have chosen to work with the doctors if I had wanted to, but I prefer the midwifery model for myself. It was nice to know that if my status changed from low-risk to high-risk at any given point, I could switch providers within the same practice, which I really appreciated.
What I was Looking for in a Provider
I had two main requirements for whatever provider would take care of my prenatal/postnatal care and delivery. First, it was important to me that my provider be up-to-date with the latest evidence-based care standards. I didn’t want someone taking care of me who was still using old-school practices (routine episiotomies or requiring that I push while laying on my back, for instance) that have proven to be more damaging than helpful. Thankfully, the midwives and doctors at All Female Associates seem to be largely on top of the latest ACOG/APA recommendations.
Second, I wanted a team who would respect my decisions and make me feel seen and heard. I met all 5 AFA OBGYN midwives, and they were all patient with me as I discussed my birth preferences, asked question after question, and made certain requests about my birth environment. All of them were compassionate and respectful.
My Experience with AFA OBGYN’s Prenatal Care
There are many examples of their care, but a couple stand out. When I did the routine screen for gestational diabetes at the AFA OBGYN Westford office, I failed the first test by something like two mg/dL, so I’d have to go in for a longer test. I was frustrated, and I went home and started reading through ACOG guidelines and realized that the cutoff is kind of arbitrary, and AFA uses a stricter standard (probably to make sure GD, which can be quite risky if not caught and treated, doesn’t slip through the cracks).
I did some research and realized that the 2-hour test AFA uses for the second round has a higher fail rate/misdiagnosis rate than I was comfortable with (in other words, the fail rate is high enough that some moms who don’t have GD will be diagnosed with it). I asked my midwife if I could do a different test that’s longer/more accurate, but it wasn’t available.
Rather than leave it at that, she asked me if I was willing to consider a third option, which was to track my meals and my blood sugar (via finger-prick) several times per day for a week. That would be the most reliable indicator of whether I truly had GD or not. I agreed, and thankfully my blood sugar readings were well within normal range, and I put all the stress of the first failed test behind me.
I realize that I may have made things harder on myself than I needed to, but it was important to me that I not be unnecessarily placed in a high-risk category when I wasn’t truly high-risk. I really appreciated that the AFA team was willing to work with me in a way that both honored my concerns and also kept me healthy and safe.
My L&D Experience with AFA OBGYN
The other instance in which I felt particularly cared for with AFA was in L&D at Emerson in Concord. Despite a hospital childbirth educator and several providers from a previous practice (that delivered my first child in 2018) telling me that once I hit transition and the pushing stage of labor I wouldn’t care who was present, I did care. Extra people in the room made me feel uncomfortable, and I really didn’t feel safe in such a vulnerable state around a gaggle of medical staff. It might be true for most women, but I was still pulling my robe around myself to feel covered up until the very end.
As a result, I wanted to limit the people in my L&D room to only necessary providers, plus my husband and doula. I had this on my birth preferences sheet, which I talked about with every single midwife at my appointments at AFA Westford. Every single midwife heard my concern and reassured me that they would do their best to make sure my preferences would be respected. Obviously I knew that if there were any real emergencies, other staff would need to enter the room to keep me and my baby safe, and I was fine with that.
A few weeks before my due date, one of the midwives actually spoke to the person who oversees the L&D floor, and they actually put a note in my chart. I think that’s when I knew that they truly heard me.
When I was in labor and finally came to the hospital, I accidentally arrived very close to the end, which meant I didn’t make it through triage before they had to bring me back to a delivery room (baby arrived before the Covid test results back, and they never got their 20 minutes of listening to the baby on a monitor!). But in the few minutes I was in triage, my midwife Krystina introduced me to my labor nurse and (between contractions) gently let me know that she and the nurse would be the only providers present from then until immediately postpartum unless a complication arose.
They stuck to their word, and I didn’t see another provider until after I was sewn up. Even after I was moved to my postpartum room, the number of revolving hospital staff was much smaller than it was with my first birth. I had a peaceful stay at the hospital with my husband and my brand new daughter.
Would I recommend AFA OBGYN Westford and AFA Concord?
You betcha. 🙂 I really appreciated AFA’s holistic approach to pregnancy and delivery, and I felt seen and heard by the midwives. They were also really great with my postpartum concerns in the 2- and 6-week follow-up visits. If you’re looking for a compassionate practice that is pretty up-to-date with current recommendations, I definitely suggest looking into AFA OBGYN Westford/AFA Concord!
This post is part of a series of posts on local OBGYN providers. To learn about other providers in the area, check out these posts:
If you’re expecting, you might also be interested in these related posts:
If you happen to be looking for a maternity or newborn photographer in addition to your search for a prenatal provider, please check out some of my work here (maternity) or here (newborn). I’d love the opportunity to serve you!