Few medical decisions are as intimate and personal as the decisions made in choosing a gynecologist. The process of choosing a gynecologist requires thoughtful consideration of a few key factors. The relationship that you build with your gynecologist should be one of trust and should last over many years.
A good place to start your search is to determine which gynecologists are included in the network of providers listed with your health insurance. These lists do limit your options but if you have a large insurance carrier, there are usually many excellent physicians from which to choose. Do you want your primary care physician to also be your gynecologist? Some people do. As you develop a list of doctors, you may want someone that is able to do both. If you choose this route, ask your physician if he or she is board-certified and the precise gynecologic and obstetric procedures that they are qualified and willing to perform.
Is the gender of your gynecologist important to you?
Some women only feel comfortable with a female gynecologist given the intimate and invasive nature of gynecologic histories and physical exams. It used to be that female physicians were hard to come by, but for many years the enrollment of women in medical schools has exceeded the enrollment of men. It is a reasonable option to have a woman as your gynecologist, though understand that the training involved is identical no matter what the physician’s gender.
Having narrowed the field, you can now look at more specific issues in making your decision. When choosing a gynecologist, find one that is local. You are much more likely to keep routine appointments if you can access that doctor easily. Choose a doctor that has flexible office hours—can you make an appointment that fits with your schedule? Are they willing and able to perform all the procedures that you require? Many practitioners are uncomfortable with abortion. If this is a service that you may need, access to this must be discussed well in advance. Is your gynecologist capable of obstetrics as well? Many are but some primary care doctors may provide gynecological services, but do not deliver babies. Are you comfortable with that arrangement?
Perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing a gynecologist is to ask yourself whether you can trust the person. This branch of medicine focuses on issues of an extremely personal nature and you need to be able to answer direct questions openly and honestly. Are you comfortable answering questions about sexual partners, practices, and sexually transmitted diseases with the person sitting on the rolling stool? Are you comfortable with the person completing the gynecological exam? Your health as a woman depends on being able to answer “yes” to these important and personal questions.
Competence, Trust and Convenience
Choosing a gynecologist that is right for you is very important and can greatly influence your overall health and well being; however, making that choice is easier said than done. So, where do you start?
A good place to start is to determine how far you are willing to travel. While there may be many gynecologists in urban areas, this is not always the case in more rural locations. Consider that it is easier to make routine appointments if the gynecologist’s office is very near your home, school or place of business. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists lists all of the properly registered gynecologists in your area. As you are choosing a gynecologist, make sure that your insurance company includes that gynecologist on their list of approved providers.
Once you have your shortlist of approved gynecologists, imagine what you want and expect from your gynecologist. Perhaps factors such as the doctor’s age and gender are important to you. Older doctors have more experience but younger doctors have finished training more recently. Ask about call schedules. Is this a person in a solo practice? Does she practice with a small group or a large group of gynecologists? If you need help after hours, can the doctor be reached? It may be useful to set up an initial appointment to get to know the doctor before you make your choice. Moreover, find out their thoughts on key issues like abortion and birth control methods to see how well they mesh with your own views.
Remember that when you are choosing a gynecologist, that this particular physician sees and knows more about you than even your regular internal medicine or primary care physician. Trust is paramount in this relationship and needs to be established from the start. Remember that you can always change physicians as well, so if trust is broken or if you no longer feel totally comfortable with your gynecologist, you should feel free and empowered to move on to someone that you do trust.