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How to find the women’s health specialist that is right for you

How to find the women’s health specialist that is right for you

We’re officially into the new year, which means it’s the perfect time to check in those New Year’s resolutions. Did you make a resolution? How’s it going so far? 

Whether you’re crushing your goal to exercise more often, have already lost interest in your intention to order out less, or never bothered setting a New Year’s resolution in the first place: the beginning of the year is a great time to make a health pivot. That’s why we’re covering that very topic here at LOLA — whether it’s moving to a more natural lifestyle, or finding the right women’s health care provider for your needs.

For advice on the latter, we spoke to our resident medical expert (and one of our favorite OB-GYNs): Dr. Wendy Hurst, gynecologist and founding partner of Englewood Ob/Gyn. Here’s what she had to say:

What resources can help women find a reproductive health specialist?

In today’s health care market, lists of reproductive health specialists who are covered by an insurance carrier are usually provided. However, this often offers only a glimpse into the skills of each physician. If this is an issue, there are many physician lists. Two reliable ones are the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

If you have a hospital preference, most hospitals have lists of physicians on their websites, organized by specialty. But keep in mind this doesn’t give a full description of skill, personality, or areas of interest of the reproductive specialist. On top of that, rating sites like Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, and RateMDs don’t have consistent filters for false or inaccurate reviews. It’s a real conundrum for patients and doctors alike.

Personal recommendations from friends, who are probably looking for similar qualities when it comes to choosing an OB-GYN, can really help your search. 

To recap, hospital affiliation, board certification, FACOG, and personal recommendations can all play a part in helping you find a reproductive health specialist who’s the ideal fit. 

What should you take into consideration as you are searching for a reproductive health specialist?

Important qualities to consider (in addition to credentials) include accessibility, approachability, ease of making appointments (this includes telehealth), and how they follow-up with you on tests performed in or out of the office. This is where your friends’ recommendations should come into the picture, as these are qualities that are hard to glean from any website or physician list. 

On a personal note: it’s rare for a patient of mine to make an appointment just to “interview” me to be her gynecologist. Most often, women schedule an annual or well-woman exam having done their research (using a combination of the things I mention above). They’ve narrowed down their field before making the appointment. But if that’s not the case, there’s absolutely no reason any woman should feel obligated to stay with a particular doctor if the fit is not right.

What questions should you ask a reproductive health specialist during your first appointment?

Questions asked at a first appointment depend on where the patient is in her reproductive life. And often these questions are couched in a discussion of pertinent issues. For example, a first-time-ever appointment by someone who’s recently started their period might include these types of questions:

· Should my menstrual cycle follow a specific pattern?

· What’s considered normal, versus cause for concern?

· What are my options when it comes to birth control? And how do I choose the right birth control method for my needs?

· What do I need to know about STI prevention? 

Whereas, a patient who’s at a different stage in her reproductive journey — say, planning to get pregnant for the first time — may have entirely different questions:

· When should I stop taking my birth control?

· Will my current medications affect my ability to get pregnant?

· Should I change any of my current lifestyle habits to increase my chances of getting pregnant?

If the first appointment is a well-woman exam, it may include different things at different times in a woman’s reproductive lifespan. There is definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” formula.

What kind of care is reasonable to expect from a reproductive health specialist? 

In general, women consult with their OB-GYN annually. However, if there’s any issue that’s concerning the patient, she’s always encouraged to schedule an appointment. This is true of any physician you consult with, not just your OB-GYN — and early treatment of a medical issue is always ideal.

Finally, you should expect your OB-GYN to address questions related to your reproductive and preventive health, but not general issues such as earaches, sore throats, management of chronic health issues, etc. That said, a trusted OB-GYN can be an excellent source for referrals to other physicians who can treat these general medical issues.