How to Choose an OB-GYN

 

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

The relationship between a woman and her OB-GYN is sacred. Next time you’re with a group of girlfriends, bring up the subject and prepare for impassioned language — and maybe even a few superlatives — as each woman extols hers as “the best,” “the most compassionate,” or “the most experienced.” But ask what specific universal qualities make for the perfect OB-GYN, and your friends probably won’t agree. Some women won’t go to a male doctor, while others prefer a man. Some want their questions answered in minute detail, while others want an overview. Some may prefer a doctor who shares their religious beliefs, while others don’t think such factors are important.

If you’re in the market for an OB-GYN, understand that you’ll be sharing some of the most personal details of your life. It’s not a quest to take lightly. You need to find that one person you’ll feel comfortable discussing all that below-the-belt stuff with — including your sex life — and issues like pregnancy, should you arrive there.  A good place to begin is with an inventory of your personal preferences. Then consider why you’re seeking their care in the first place. Are you having trouble getting pregnant and looking for a fertility specialist? Mired in menopausal symptoms and prefer a doctor who’s been there, done that?

If you’re looking for someone to tick all the well-woman boxes (cancer screenings, breast exams, pelvic exams), look for a gynecologist or women’s health specialist. If you hope to get pregnant in the next few years, you’ll want an OB-GYN to handle your pregnancy and delivery eventually. If you have specific problems such as infertility, cancer, or urinary incontinence, you may be looking for a specialist in that field. Or you may want an OB-GYN to serve as your primary care provider and coordinate services with specialists.

Once you have an idea what you want, ask girlfriends and family members what they’ve heard about any doctor you’re considering.  Check websites that display credentials, specialties, years in practice, patient reviews and ratings, and education. You might also view the provider’s website for more complete bios and get an impression of the practice.

During your first appointment, potential OB-GYNs should ask for a complete medical history and take the time to get to know you and your concerns. Qualities like respect and compassion, while important for any doctor, are even more important for the person with whom you’ll be discussing sex, family planning, mental health, and other highly personal topics. You want a practitioner who values your opinion and is there to educate you about your health options, then respects the choices you make.

Again, while credentials, experience, and expertise are important when searching for any healthcare provider, your relationship is equally important. Don’t settle until you find an OB-GYN who makes you feel comfortable, confident, and valued.