A woman’s relationship with her obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) is a more complex and intimate relationship than most other doctor and patient relationships. It’s vitally important to find an ob-gyn that will best respond to your needs and whose practices are in line with your personal health and reproductive goals.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AACOG), your first gynecological visit should occur somewhere in your early teens or when you become sexually active. A teen’s first visit may be informational only, with no pelvic exam, if she is not sexually active and does not expect to be sexually active in the near future. Women over the age of 21 ought to have a full exam done by their ob-gyn every three years to screen for cancers.
An ob-gyn is your first stop for questions and concerns regarding anything specific to women’s health. This includes women’s cancers (cervical, ovarian, uterine, breast, and vaginal), sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and contraception, hormone disorders and other disorders of the female reproductive system such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Ob-gyns also assist women with overall health maintenance, screening for depression, managing a healthy weight and screening for other health issues.
A healthy relationship with your ob-gyn is important, as he or she will likely be your strongest advocate for your personal health.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, be sure that the ob-gyn is still actively practicing obstetrics. Delivering babies is a stressful, time consuming practice and many ob-gyns drop the “OB” from their calling card at some point during their career. You should ask if they are planning to deliver babies for the foreseeable future, as this is a major change that is unlikely to happen overnight. Changing providers mid-pregnancy is not fun for anyone involved.
Five quick things to consider when looking for a new ob-gyn
Does this provider accept my insurance plan?
2. Office location
Is this provider’s office in a location that is convenient for me? This is especially important to consider if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as you will likely visit the office up to twenty times during your pregnancy and recovery.
Does the office make me feel comfortable? Ob-gyn exams are extremely personal and being relaxed makes them more bearable and more successful.
4. Hospital connections
Does this provider have rights at a hospital I am comfortable with? Often ob-gyns have rights to only one or two hospitals, and women’s health issues often result in hospital visits.
5. Additional care providers
If your ob-gyn is unavailable, how will your needs be met? Is there another doctor in the same office who will take care of you, or will you be referred to a triage hotline or another office in town? If a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant (both highly qualified medical professionals) will be tending to your routine care, how and when will the ob-gyn be introduced to you?
After you’ve checked the quick issues, there are several more complex questions that need to be addressed. Finding the answers to these will take a little more research, but they are very essential to ensuring your ob-gyn is a good match for you.
Does this provider pay attention to my needs and my issues?
A provider who blows off your complaints of a heavy period or pain during intercourse is not respecting your needs. Yes, these complaints may be common, but that does not mean they should ever be ignored.
Is this provider’s plan for my health in line with my own?
If you are staunchly against contraceptives or family planning, you don’t want a provider constantly insisting you take measures to prevent a pregnancy. Or vice versa, if you want or need to put off childbearing for any reason, your provider should be assisting you to do so, not trying to convince you otherwise.
Does this provider encourage natural or alternative medicine at the rate I would like?
Some providers are very open to alternative medicine when it comes to regulating the female body, but many are not. Some providers will immediately prescribe medication for any and all complaints related to female cycles, while others will have their patients adjust their diet, sleep schedules, exercise routines and other habits. If you plan to have a drug-free birthing experience, you don’t want a provider who will pressure you to have an epidural.
A relationship with your ob-gyn can be successful, so long as everybody is on the same page, and your expectations are clear from the beginning.