10 Questions You Should Ask When Picking a Gynecologist

woman talking to her doctorMany of us see our OB/GYNs more often than any other physician. In fact, 44 percent of women see their gynecologist -- NOT their primary care doctor -- for preventative care, according to research published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine. And that's just one reason to take the process of finding the right OB/GYN for you very seriously.

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Connecting with a OB/GYN you'll be happy and comfortable with requires asking certain hard-hitting questions. In other words, while it's not a bad idea to ask standard Qs like, "What hospital are you affiliated with?" and "What's your accreditation?" you may want to go a bit off the beaten path to figure out if a doctor really is the best fit.

Here, 10 questions that will lead you to the right OB/GYN.

1. "Is the doctor published in medical journals, are they on the faculty of a medical school, and/or associated with a prestigious hospital?" A solid reputation and excellent credentials definitely matter, says Joel Evans, OB/GYN, MD, founder of The Center for Women's Health in Stamford, Connecticut. "Higher standards are required of docs with better affiliations," he explains. "And publishing means intellectual curiosity and annotation to detail."

2. "What's the doctor's office like?" All right, so physician office decor doesn't vary all that much, but ideally, you want the space your health care provider practices in to be as clean, warm, and welcoming as possible.

"Some doctors have no control over the colors or the art or the music in their space," explains Dr. Evans. "However, there is no excuse for sloppiness or lack of cleanliness anywhere in a medical office."

3. "How does the doctor explain their treatment protocols?" In other words, do they give you a thorough explanation when you ask why they might want to go with one particular treatment over the other, or do they use a lot of medical jargon or simply expect you to trust their judgment without divulging all that many details?

You may want to pay special attention to feeling dismissed and being told not to worry, as you'll surely want your voice heard and respected by your doctor.

4. "How much time does the doctor spend with a new patient and on an annual exam?" Not only will it help you gauge how much time you can expect to have your doctor's ear, but it may also help you ensure you're not going with a doctor who keeps one hand on the doorknob for the duration of your visit!

Bear in mind that this is a question you can easily ask the receptionist. "Problem appointments will vary with the severity of the problem, but the others are standard," notes Dr. Evans.

5. "What is their approach to treatment?" If you're not particularly keen on prescription drugs and surgery as a first line of defense against any issue that should arise, it pays to find out if the doctor isn't as well, notes Dr. Evans.

The good news is that most doctors who aren't are pretty forthcoming about leaning on lifestyle measures and natural therapies -- when possible.

6. "What is their approach to preventative care?" Similarly, you'll want to see how your doctor handles specific concerns you might anticipate dealing with down the road -- from breast cancer, if you have a strong family history of the disease, to a yeast infection, if you tend to get one on occasion.

"You want to hear an explanation of the underlying problems and the rationale for the approach," says Dr. Evans. "You should read up on your issue before, so you have some idea of what you want the doc to say."

7. "What are ways the doctor recommends prepare for a pregnancy and optimize chances of conception?" Having this conversation can ensure that you're on the same page as your health care provider when it comes to the bevy of variables that may pop up around fertility and conception. Or even give you an idea of how restrictive they might be when preconceptual becomes prenatal!

8. "Do you do in-office blood collection?" One mom from the CafeMom boards confesses this could be a dealmaker or breaker for her. While it may sound like a minor issue, some of us require labwork more frequently than others, and it could be more convenient for you to have your health care provider do it in their own office than having to visit a separate location for a blood draw.

9. "What is the doctor's cesearean section rate?" If having a baby is on your to-do list, you'll want to choose an OB/GYN whose values are in line with your own when it comes to birth. C-section stats will tell you what the chances are that you'll ultimately end up on the operating table -- or not.

10. Ask other health care providers you trust, "Who do you recommend for me, and why?" Nothing beats a referral, especially from another doctor who you know you're already well-matched with!

And other health care providers' opinions definitely trump review sites, says Dr. Evans. "[Those] sites can be swayed by a few very happy or unhappy people with no fact checking required," he says. "Try to find physicians to make recommendations. Nurses are [also] great sources of info on docs."

What questions have helped lead you to the right gynecologist?

 

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