ob_gyn_with_patient.jpgMost women spend more time picking out a hairstylist than an OB-GYN, or so goes the complaint of many doctors. Perhaps it’s because with a hairstylist, we know exactly what we’re looking for in terms of cut and style. It’s time we exercised the same scrutiny when picking out a OB-GYN. After all, this is the doctor you go to see about your deepest, darkest secrets—or so to speak. Without the right doctor, things can get very awkward very quickly.

Here are some questions that may help narrow down the search.

When do I need to start seeing an OB-GYN?

According to the Dr. Donnica website, there are certain triggers that signal the need for a woman to see an OB-GYN. Visit the OB-GYN:

- 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.

What kind of OB-GYN do I need?

An obstetrician is a doctor who deals with pregnancy and birth, and a gynecologist is someone who deals with the female reproductive system. We usually hear the two words together as OB-GYN since many of these doctors are trained and educated in both areas and can address your usual queries about birth control, menstrual cycle and pre-natal needs.

An OB-GYN can specialize in different areas, such as maternal-fetal medicine, which deals with high-risk pregnancies. Other OB-GYNs may work as reproductive-endocrinologists and handle infertility cases or as gynecologic oncologists who treat cancer. Thus, you should go to a doctor who specializes in your particular concern.

Is the OB-GYN accredited by my health insurance?

If cost is a primary concern for you or if you would simply want to maximize the benefits of your health insurance, get a list of accredited doctors from the your healthcare provider to see what your options are. That’s a good place to start. Make sure consultations and other tests are covered by your healthcare plan, though, as you may go through all the trouble of finding an accredited OB-GYN just to find out your health card won’t pick up the bill for his or her services.

Should I get a male or female OB-GYN?

This goes down to personal preference. Many women feel more comfortable with another woman, which accounts for the number of female OB-GYNs. If you have never been to an OB-GYN before or if you tend to be shy around your OB-GYNs, you may find it more comforting to know that whatever you’re baring isn’t anything your doctor hasn’t got herself. This is not to say that male OB-GYNs are not equally professional, capable, and caring—only that many women would be more comfortable with another woman.

What do my friends or other patients have to say about the doctor and his/her bedside manner?

Just as you would do some research before buying a new high-tech camera or booking a resort for a vacation, you should put in the same kind of background research in finding the right doctor. Ask your friends for reviews or check out other sources of feedback like network forums. This thread on Female Network’s GirlTalk forums deals exclusively in OB-GYN recommendations.

What does my doctor say about the prospective OB-GYN?

You can also ask your general practitioner (GP) or family doctor for recommendations since your doctor may have inside knowledge about which other doctors in the area are good. You needn’t feel awkward asking since doctors are used to giving out recommendations, especially for specialists. You can also specify some of the qualities you would like your OB-GYN to have so your doctor can point you in the right direction.

What are the OB-GYN’s credentials?

If educational background and length of experience in the medical field are important to you, then take advantage of verifying the doctor’s credentials on websites like RXPinoy.com.

Where is his or her clinic, and what are its facilities?

Most doctors hold clinics in more than one hospital and have different timeslots for each. Check if the locations are easily accessible to public transportation or if parking is readily available. It’s also a plus if your doctor holds a clinic near your home or workplace or on your route home.

You may also want to check out the facilities available. Doctors with clinics in a hospital will frequently have access to the hospital’s women’s health center and its complement of facilities. However, if your doctor’s clinic is not in a hospital, you may want to find out if it has the necessary equipment for a full checkup in-house or at a nearby location so you don’t have waste time traveling between your doctor’s clinic and the facility where you can have tests done. For example, you should check if the clinic has an ultrasound—contrary to popular opinion, these are commonly used to examine non-pregnant women as well as pregnant ones!

Do the clinic hours fit in with your schedule?

This is really important because, while it may be tempting to wait till the weekend before going to the doctor, this may also be the time when most patients come in for a consultation. You might end up spending most of your weekend queuing for your turn. So you should try to get a doctor whose clinic hours often coincide with your free time.

If the doctor’s clinic is near your place of work and is open during the lunch hour, it’ll make it easier to slip out for a consultation during your midday break.

Can the doctor explain things to you in a way that is easy to understand?

The medical field is filled with big long words that to a non-doctor are not only alienating but sometimes also intimidating. Make sure your doctor is someone who is patient enough to break down medical jargon so as not to cause premature alarm.

“My pap smear showed abnormal cells which I was told might be indicative of pre-cancerous cells. I was referred to another procedure called a colposcopy for a biopsy. These words freaked me out, and I was really, really scared,” says Isabelle, 32.

“Thank god, my OB explained to me the other possible results of a pap smear. She  mollified me by saying that the ‘abnormal cells’ found in my pap smear were known to be one of the more benevolent findings when compared to others and the additional examination was just to be very, very prudent,” concludes Isabelle who says that this explanation, though lengthy, went a long way in putting her premature fears to rest.

You’ll want an OB-GYN who cares about your feelings, like Isabelle’s does, so she or he will lay any unqualified fears to rest. This is a very important quality to have because, should you have any conditions or diseases that need treatment, this type of doctor would be able to explain what’s going on, your options for treatment, and any repercussions in a way you can understand as well.

Is the OB-GYN reachable even after clinic hours?

If you’ve forgotten to take your pill and want to be doubly sure about not getting pregnant, or if you’ve engaged in unprotected sex and are worried it could have unwanted consequences, can your OB be reached by phone? More importantly, will he or she allow consultations during non-clinic hours?

Be careful about going overboard with the questions though, because you just might be surprised when you get the bill for your next consultation. Gigi, a birth plan consultant says, “Some doctors will charge you for consultations made through SMS or phone call. They’re less than actual face-to-face clinic consultations, but these can add up.”

For non-urgent questions, it may be better to wait for your next appointment. You should also use your appointment time to clear up any “what ifs” and “just in cases.”

Is the OB-GYN non-judgmental?

Theresa, an OB-GYN who asked that she not be named, admitted that because of her religious beliefs, she doesn’t do tubal ligations and simply refers her patients who request for this procedure to another doctor.

If it is important to you that your doctor not let moral beliefs influence her practice, then this is something that you might want to consider.  Ann, a 28-year-old bank employee, steered clear of such doctors when she was looking for a prescription for birth control pills because she was not married.  

“I did ask one doctor point blank if she had a problem with prescribing pills to me seeing that I wasn’t married [in my chart], and she said that she had no problem at all with that. It was a great relief to me,” shares Ann.

Can you see yourself consulting this OB-GYN for a long time?

You’re going to need the services and expertise of an OB-GYN for a long time—ideally, from the time that you start becoming sexually active, all the way to your menopausal years. In case we weren’t clear at the start, you’ll need to see an OB-GYN regularly, and not just when you are pregnant! Look at your OB-GYN as your partner in sexual and reproductive health. So when you think of choosing an OB-GYN, as you would with a partner, pick one you can see yourself with for a long time.

(Photo © iStockPhoto.com/Juan Herrera)
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