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How To Choose Your Gynecologist

Choosing a new- or a first- gynecologist can be very stressful for women. This health care provider consults us in some of the most intimate arenas of our health, sexuality, and well-being.  Even for those of us who enjoy good health, we rely upon our Ob-gyn's to see us through some of our most emotional transitions: contraception, conception, childbirth, PMS, and menopause.  For those of us in health crises, it is often the Ob-gyn to whom we turn: when our periods are late, when our pregnancies are complicated, when our systems malfunction, when we have an abnormal Pap smear, or when we find a dreaded breast lump.  Yet most of us spend more time choosing a hair stylist than choosing a gynecologist!  Many of us rely more on luck than strategy to identify this critically important health care partner.   Dr. Donnica discusses the different ways to identify the best gynecologist for you.

Your obstetrician-gynecologist ("Ob-gyn") may be the most important health care partner you ever have. Gynecologists ("gyn's") are physicians (MD's or DO's) who specialize in treating women's reproductive health problems; obstetricians ("OB's") provide prenatal care and deliver babies; Ob-Gyn's do all of the above.  Some gyn's also provide general primary medical care as well.  Whether or not you are permitted to choose a gyn as your primary care provider (PCP), may depend on the health plan to which you subscribe and state in which you live, and may have relatively little to do with that physician's particular background or experience.

Because gyn's play such an important role in your health and well being--and because they play such a central role in one of the most private aspects of your life--finding the right one may take some initiative, time, and planning. Yet most women spend more time planning a one-week vacation than selecting a gynecologist!  By far the most frequent medically-related question I am asked relates to choosing an Ob-gyn.  Most women who inquire simply ask me to recommend someone for them.  While this seems like a relatively simple question, the variables involved go far beyond identifying someone who is competent, compassionate, well-trained, and conveniently located.  Regrettably, financial factors are often the first to be considered in choosing an Ob-gyn.  Location and other logistical factors are also clearly important.  Increasingly, sub-specialization is also a consideration.   There is no standard or even straightforward way to identify the Ob-gyn who is best for you.  Hopefully, these tips will help!

When Should a Woman See a Gynecologist?
  • Annually after age 18 or after becoming sexually active, whichever is first.
  • When considering becoming pregnant for a preconception counseling visit.
  • As early as possible in a pregnancy.
  • When you have any unusual signs or symptoms in your breasts, vagina, lower abdomen, urinary system, period or PMS problems, hormonal concerns, need for contraception, etc.
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 Your relationship with your gynecologist is one of the most intimate professional relationships you may have. While this relationship will take time to nurture, you should have a feeling even on the first visit that this is a person you will be able to trust with your most private or serious concerns. 

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