- Does gender matter?
It is totally ok if you feel more comfortable with a provider of a certain gender, and if that’s the case for you this can help you narrow down your search. For example, if you are set on having a female OBGYN, search for practices with female providers only – not just the one you plan to see. This is because we often cover for each other (your OBGYN may not be available on the day you deliver your baby, so in this instance another doc would cover). If you can’t find such a practice or this is more of a preference than a must-have, this caveat may not matter if you are OK being flexible in a pinch.
- Solo or group practice?
Do you want to see only your doctor, or are you ok with seeing another doctor if something comes up? In a solo practice, you will only be seeing your doctor for all visits. This also means if they are called to L&D for a delivery or need to perform an emergent surgery, your appointments will have to be rescheduled since they don’t have partners to jump in. In a group practice, though, another doctor may fill in if yours is not available at that time. Decide what’s more important to you: always seeing the same person, or knowing it’s less likely you’ll have to be rescheduled.
- How easy is it to schedule an appointment?
While at some practices you might expect to wait on hold for hour(s), others may allow you to text or use an electronic platform to schedule an appointment or ask a (non-emergent!) question. While this may not seem like a huge deal, the accessibility of your doctor may make you more or less likely to get the care you need. Some other things to consider are: How much time in advance do you have to make an appointment? Can you schedule appointments online? Finding an OBGYN that allows you to painlessly make appointments may save you the hassle in the future.
- What do others say?
A great way to get a feel for what an OBGYN is like is to ask around. You can ask friends or even your primary care doctor, to see who they prefer to refer to. Pro tip: call labor and delivery and ask the nurses who they go to for their own OBGYN care. They have a ton of insight and will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
- Be cautious with online reviews
Online reviews can be helpful…sometimes. There are generally two types of people who write online reviews: those who have had a fantastic experience and want to tell people about it, and those who have had a terrible experience and also want to tell people about it. These make up the extremes of the patient population, and do not represent the majority of experiences with that OBGYN. Also, reviews can be falsified, so be take them with a grain of salt.
- Check out the practice’s website
You can also get a feel for the practice based on their website. On their website, you will be able to find out information about the services and procedures they offer. You can also read more information about the doctors, such as what areas they specialize in. An updated website may indicate that the practice is more updated, however this is not always the case.
Finally, does the website have educational information for patients? This might help you determine how involved and informed you will be by your doctor. You can also check out your practice’s social media accounts, but don’t discredit them if they don’t have a large social media presence – trust me, it’s not for everyone!
- Is your OBGYN board-certified or board-eligible?
A board-certified OBGYN will have completed their residency and passed an oral and written board exam. These exams are very vigorous tests administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which holds OBGYNs to very high standards. Once the certification is obtained, it must be renewed every year. This helps OBGYNs stay up to date on the newest research and practices. If your doctor is not yet board certified, that may just mean they are too soon out of their residency program to have completed the test, as it can take a couple years after residency to complete it. Don’t let that be an automatic turn-off though – physicians just out of residency are sometimes more up to date than those who haven’t been in residency for 20 years! They have just finished their training and are up-to-date on the latest research and procedures.
- Are medical students or residents involved?
You may not feel comfortable with medical students or residents being present at your visits or delivery. However, I do want you to keep in mind that residents are very knowledgeable, and the fact that your doctor is training them speaks to the ability of that doctors skill level. Doctors who have the ability to teach others on top of their normal job tend to be very talented and knowledgeable.
If you’re pregnant, here are some additional things to consider…
- Where does your OBGYN deliver?
You might have a certain hospital that you would prefer to deliver at, so make sure that your OBGYN delivers there. Some docs deliver at one location, while others go to a few. This can help you narrow down your search!
- What is the C-section rate?
A physician’s C-section rate can indicate their philosophy on managing labor. Note that this number is not always helpful or indicative of a physician’s abilities, because doctors who manage higher risk pregnancies may have a higher C-section rate than somebody who manages low-risk pregnancies. It is an important question to ask, but don’t get too focused on the number.
- What breastfeeding support is available? Additional training or lactation consultant?
If you are pregnant and planning on breastfeeding, ask your OBGYN what training they have on lactation and breastfeeding. In residency, there is not much training in this area (different topic for a different day…), so feel free to ask. You can also ask if they have someone in their office, such as a lactation consultant, that can help support breastfeeding? Any additional preparation before delivery will set you up for success after you give birth, and you will know how comfortable your doctor is with managing breastfeeding concerns if they arise.
Remember – it is OK to switch!
It is important that you feel seen and heard when meeting with your potential future OBGYN – and really, any healthcare provider. If you have an appointment and you do not feel a connection or feel like it’s not a good fit, it is absolutely ok to switch. You will be discussing very personal matters with your OBGYN, and it is important that you feel respected and never shamed.
I hope these tips will help you find your next OBGYN!