When I talk with my female friends and family, most confess to feeling nervous or awkward discussing their health with a doctor.

I definitely get it. After all, these are sensitive topics. But you’ve probably heard it before (and I’m here to repeat it again): Seeing an OB-GYN or midwife is such a crucial part of maintaining your health, whether you’re in college, trying to get pregnant or experiencing menopause.

Getting more out of your appointments and feeling comfortable talking about sensitive topics become easier when you find an OB-GYN you feel at ease with.

If you’ve never been to an OB-GYN before, you’ve just moved to the Twin Cities or you’re looking for a new doctor, it’s totally normal to wonder how to make the most of your first visit. That’s why I wanted to share some of the best questions you can ask your new OB-GYN.

What to ask a new OB-GYN

1. What kind of exams do I need?

Talk with your OB-GYN about what sort of regular screenings you might need. Generally, you should start cervical cancer screening once you’re 21 and get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years once you’re 40, but timing can vary based on your health history. Your OB-GYN can tell you what they recommend, and they can even show you how to perform a monthly breast exam yourself. Beginning with this question is a great opportunity to start talking about your health, and it can open the door to more questions that lead to more a personalized care experience going forward.

2. What health topics can you help me with?

On that note, if you’re curious about which methods of birth control might be right for you, how to relieve painful period cramps, what to keep in mind if you’re planning to start a family, or what you can expect from menopause, tell your OB-GYN what’s on your mind. You’ll get advice uniquely tailored to you, and you’ll learn more about the broader women's health resources and specialists your OB-GYN can connect you with at any stage in your life.

3. Why is _____ happening to me?

If there’s already something specific you want to discuss with your OB-GYN, make sure to discuss it during your appointment. Whether it’s irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, incontinence problems, painful urination, discomfort during sex, an unusual discharge or libido issues, your OB-GYN can help you start finding answers today. The more you can tell your OB-GYN about how you’re feeling and what questions you have, the more you’ll be able to put their knowledge to work for you and your health.

4. If I need tests, can I get them done here?

At times your OB-GYN may suggest laboratory tests, like a blood or urine screen, or imaging tests, like a mammogram. Ask if those kinds of services can be done at your OB-GYN’s clinic. If you don’t have to make a different appointment at another location, the added convenience and saved time can make your visits a whole lot smoother.

5. Will I see you every time I come in?

Depending on the reason for your visit and the size of the care team at the clinic you choose, you may see your OB-GYN for every appointment or have the option to see someone else from their team. If this is the case, be sure to choose a place that has an electronic medical record, so anyone you see is familiar with your health history.

6. What are your office hours? What happens if you’re not available?

Beyond routine checkups and exams, it’s good to know what level of after-hours access you have to your OB-GYN clinic (even if you don’t need it). Ask what they offer as after-hours options, whether it be a nurse line or urgent care locations, so that should the need arise, you know what to do.

7. How often should I come see you?

As you’re wrapping up, start to look ahead to your next visit. Depending on your age, health goals and other factors, you might have different health care needs than your friends and family. It’s pretty standard to see your OB-GYN every year, but seeing them more might be necessary. And when you know more about what you’ll cover at your next visit, seeing your OB-GYN as someone you partner with to manage your health can become a lot easier.

Take charge of your visits

It can take a little time to get over the initial awkwardness, and that’s a normal feeling no matter who you are. Choosing an OB-GYN you can partner with over a long period of time is an important step in feeling comfortable walking into the doctor’s office, getting the answers you need and feeling good about your health.