If you’re looking for ways to choose the right obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN), there’s a trick that can make the search clearer: Think about those times you’re with someone you trust and the conversation just seems to come naturally. Those times when you can be yourself and just talk straight. As strange as it may sound, this can actually be what makes a good OB-GYN, too.
Think about it: You’re looking for a partner you can feel comfortable with, who’ll be there through important and personal aspects of your life. You should be able to talk openly and honestly about your worries and plans, and leave feeling understood and confident about your next steps together.
Of course, there are a lot of excellent women’s health experts to choose from. That can make it a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re not even sure what to ask to make the most of your first appointment. But it’s worth it to find an OB-GYN who makes it easier to go in for visits, have those awkward-but-crucial conversations and get personalized care for wherever you are in life.
Here are five big tips for finding an OB-GYN who’s right for you, plus specialized advice for picking an OB-GYN for pregnancy:
1. Know who’s in your network
Start by figuring out which OB-GYNs are in your network. Choosing an OB-GYN in-network usually means your insurance will cover more of their services. This can help you better understand your coverage options and avoid unexpected surprises down the line. If you’re not sure how to find an OB-GYN in your network, a good place to begin is your insurance provider’s website.
2. Get OB-GYN reviews from friends, family and others
There’s nothing better than getting a recommendation directly from someone you’re close with who’s pleased with their obstetric or gynecological care. Ask around for people who have a good relationship with their OB-GYN. Listen to what they like about them, and if it sounds like they might be a fit for you, get the details and make an appointment.
It can also be worth checking what other people are saying about a potential OB-GYN by reading their online reviews. Patient satisfaction surveys can tell you what to expect regarding availability, making appointments, office environment, bedside manner and a whole lot more.
3. Think about your own personality and communication style
We’ll cover how to get a read on a potential OB-GYN’s manner a little further down, but before that, start with yourself. For example, if you consider yourself more serious, would you want a similar OB-GYN, or would you like someone who can bring a little levity to your appointments? Do you want your OB-GYN to just give you the facts, or would you prefer a gentler demeanor?
Think about the “must haves” you’re looking for in your OB-GYN – and what kinds of personalities tend to mesh well with yours – to help you more clearly determine if a doctor feels right for you when you visit. Reading potential OB-GYNs’ personal statements can be a good start in this process.
4. Check their history, location and specialty
Once you’ve got your eye on a potential OB-GYN doctor near you, find their online biography. Board certification – when an OB-GYN has completed extra training and exams beyond their licensure to be recognized as an expert – might be important to you. Also see if you can find details about any specializations. For example, you might want an OB-GYN who’s especially interested in managing heavy periods. Or if you’re pregnant, you might want an obstetrician who’s experienced with gestational diabetes.
5. Know that your decision isn’t final
Keep in mind that you’re not stuck with your decision. You’re in control of your health care. If your OB-GYN relationship doesn’t seem to be working out, try to talk about your concerns. Sometimes it might be a simple matter of clearing up a miscommunication or misunderstanding, and then everything goes smoothly.
But if you feel you need to switch to a new doctor, that’s okay, too. It’s always your choice, and many times your OB-GYN will be part of a larger clinic where you can easily set up an appointment with a different doctor. So if you were happy about having found an OB-GYN near you, that may not have to change.
It’s common for patients to feel guilt when they want to switch doctors. Don’t! OB-GYNs realize that they can’t possibly be the best fit for every patient. Doctors just want you to find the best fit, whether that’s with them or another doctor.
Bonus: How to choose an OB-GYN or midwife for pregnancy
If you’re expecting, trying to conceive or planning for pregnancy in the near future, choosing the women’s health expert to trust with your care is a big decision. You can choose to work with an OB-GYN during your pregnancy or you can choose a midwife for pregnancy care.
How do you choose between a midwife and an OB-GYN? Your pregnancy and birth goals, preferences, and health and safety all need to be considered. Here are a few tips to consider as you weigh your options:
If you’re planning a hospital delivery, see which ones your OB-GYN or midwife is affiliated with
Some women already have a hospital in mind, so they try to find a good OB-GYN or midwife at the location where they want to deliver. Others start with an OB-GYN or midwife they like and then see if there’s a location for delivering near them. Both ways work, but regardless of what method you choose, make sure that hospitals affiliated with your OB-GYN or midwife have their own excellent reputation, have high neonatal standards and are covered by your insurance. You’ll want experience and resources all around so delivery day goes as smoothly as possible.
Talk about what you have in mind for your pregnancy and birth wishes
It’s perfectly fine to come into your pregnancy with opinions about pain management, doulas, induced labor and much more. Be upfront about what you have in mind so your OB-GYN or midwife can share their expertise about best practices for a smooth and healthy pregnancy and birth. And if you don’t have any firm ideas yet, that’s okay, too. Your OB-GYN or midwife can help you understand your options and work with you to pin down your thoughts.
Pay extra attention to your OB-GYN or midwife practice’s policies
For instance, will you meet with your OB-GYN or midwife regularly, or see different members of your coordinated care team depending on your appointment? What’s the standard procedure for handling after-hours questions? And is your OB-GYN or midwife part of a larger team so that, if needed, you can be connected with other women’s health specialists? Clear answers to these kinds of questions can help you discover what level of care you’d prefer and what feels most comfortable to you.
In general, your OB-GYN or midwife should be open to helping you find answers they may not have. They wouldn’t necessarily be the ones to help with fatigue, for example, but they would help guide you to the appropriate team.
One thing to remember: trust your instincts
If you forget everything else, the bottom line when picking an OB-GYN is to trust your judgment.
Think about how you feel at your women’s health appointments. Do questions and answers come easily, from both you and your doctor? Does your team make you feel more relaxed? Do they take the time to explain things to you? Do they listen? It’s not an exact science. Like with a good friend, sometimes you just click.
With so much information at your fingertips, finding the right OB-GYN doesn’t have to be stressful. And with these tips in your back pocket, finding the perfect OB-GYN for you might happen a lot sooner than you think.