Being comfortable with and trusting your healthcare provider is important, though none perhaps as important as your gynecologist. Let’s face it: Your gynecologist is someone that you’ll share some of your most vulnerable and most intimate moments with, medically speaking of course.
From sexual issues to embarrassing concerns "down there" such as irregular vaginal discharge and life-changing events like pregnancy and menopause, the issues you bring to your gynecologist include the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So we asked Dr. Kecia Gaither, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Brooklyn’s Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, to share a few important things to consider when choosing a gynecologist.
FIRST, NARROW YOUR SEARCH:
• What are my needs?Are you just looking for someone to see for your annual breast exam and to perform STI and other screenings? If you’re planning to get pregnant or are dealing with a specific medical condition, such as a gynecological cancer, focus your search on someone who specializes in the gynecology subspecialties that best meets your needs.
• Do I prefer a male or female?Determine whether you feel more comfortable with one over the other, then narrow your search accordingly.
• Are they easily accessible?Logistically speaking, finding a gynecologist that you can get to easily is important. Consider location and hours to ensure that you’ll be able to get to appointments that best suit your schedule. Finally, confirm whether your doctor is part of your healthcare plan and has privileges at the hospital of your choice in case of emergencies or if you need to be admitted.
NEXT, KEEP IN MIND THESE IMPORTANT FACTORS:
Dr. Gaither’s primary tip is to confirm their credentials. “Board Certification lets the consumer know that the physician has put in the time for study and is up to date with the latest medical information.” The American Board of Medical Specialities (ABMS) offers the public this website to confirm a specialist’s board certification; it is as easy as entering their name into a search form. You can also check a physician’s credentials by telephone using ABMS’s toll-free number, 1-866-ASK-ABMS.
02. Great Bedside Manner
As mentioned earlier, your gynecologist will be the one you’re turning to with some of your most intimate and sometimes scary medical issues. Someone who makes you feel comfortable, listens to you, and welcomes questions is extremely important to receiving the best care possible. “Compassionate care speaks volumes to a patient when hospitalized,” Dr. Gaither stresses.
03. Good Communication Skills
Another essential trait of a good gynecologist is the ability to discuss medical issues in terms that are easily understandable. “Medical terminology can be confusing," Dr. Gaither says, but "when broken down in layman's terms, the rationale for medical recommendations becomes easily understandable to the patient. Showing medical books or actual films and comparing normal versus abnormal goes a long way” in providing clear explanations of conditions and the best treatments for you. Develop a list of questions on topics and concerns important to you and assess how carefully and thoroughly you felt the doctor addressed them. How do I know if a particularly painful period is regular or irregular? What kind of screening is recommended for my age and history, and how often?
04. Community Involvement
We don’t often think about what physicians do outside the office, but Dr. Gaither considers choosing a gynecologist who gives back to the community helps make them more relatable. “Some degree of community involvement lets the patient know that the physician can relate to and understands where the patient is coming from.” Volunteering often revitalizes a commitment to medicine while serving as a much needed resource to the community. Some examples include: participating in local, state, or regional public health committees; teaching in the community; serving on an advisory board for a local health agency; serving on a board of directors for a nonprofit health organization; providing care at a free clinic; assisting in the design and implementation of research projects; mentoring; working to promote better state and local health care services; and providing expertise at a community health fair.
Finally, talk with the office staff or the doctor on the phone or schedule a face-to-face visit to learn more about them. (Keep in mind there may be a charge for an in-person visit.) This little bit of homework can go a long way in helping you choose the best gynecologist for your needs.