To remain healthy, you will spend a good deal of time in regular checkups and consultations with your gynecologist or ob-gyn. And because obstetrics and gynecology deal with the most personal and private parts of the female body, it is important to find a specialist that you feel comfortable with. But finding the best doctor for you can be a challenge if you don’t know where to start. To help you with this process, we’ve put together a list of a few things to think about.

What is an ob-gyn?

Ob-gyn is a combination of the words obstetrics and gynecology and refers to a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health. An obstetrician takes care of women during pregnancy and just after their baby is born. A gynecologist does routine checkups of female reproductive organs for women of all ages. An ob-gyn is trained to do both of these things.

What do I need from my ob-gyn?

When you go in to visit a doctor or healthcare specialist, it is usually for one of two reasons, you need a routine checkup or you have particular symptoms and/or pain you need help with. So, before you start looking for an ob-gyn, you may want to decide what you need them to do. Are you looking for someone who can do regular checkups or do you need a specialist? Are you thinking about getting pregnant or are you post-menopausal? Since different doctors have more or less experience in different areas, having an idea of what you need from them can guide you in finding the right specialist for you.

What are my personal preferences?

It’s important to be honest with yourself in what you expect of your doctor and what you are comfortable with so that you can find a good match. Would you prefer to see a male or female doctor? How far are you willing to travel to visit your doctor? If you are having a baby, is there a facility you prefer to use, or would you like to know about midwife services?

Where do I start my search?

There is definitely more than one way to look for an ob-gyn depending on what you need. You could ask friends, family members or your health care provider for recommendations. You could look at those physicians listed in your insurance provider directory, you could do a search online in your area or, if you are considering pregnancy, you could begin with finding a hospital you like and a doctor based on those who practice in that hospital.

What is the doctor’s practice style?

There are as many different styles of doctors as there are patients. You need to find a physician with whom you can speak easily and ask questions. Also, consider some of these other questions:

  • Do they take the time needed to explain things clearly and completely to you?
  • What is their attitude about reproductive issues?
  • Does the physician impose his/her own beliefs or give you a professional medical perspective?
  • Do they work well with their nurses?
  • Are they familiar with the most recent industry changes?
  • Will the doctor respect your medical wishes?

How does their office or practice function?

Practical considerations like office hours and other policies can affect your needs. Here are some questions to keep in mind during your search and evaluation.

  • What are their hours, including after-hours policy?
  • Who covers for them if they are unavailable at a particular time?
  • What health insurance do they accept?
  • If there is an emergency, how quickly can the doctor return your call?
  • Do you have a hard time scheduling an appointment?

While this list of questions to consider may seem overwhelming, don’t worry about answering all of them. Pick out the few that really matter to you and focus on those. Much of the process of getting to know a particular doctor or practice does take some time, but you will find a physician who is right for you.