Whether you’re going to an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) for a preventive screening, birth control advice, pregnancy care, or to get help for a menopausal issue, you need an OB-GYN who can respond to your changing needs. And someone who is a good fit for you.

Navigating the healthcare system and finding an OB-GYN whom you can partner with when it comes to your health needs and preferences can be challenging.

That’s why we’ve put together 10 tips to help you figure out what’s important to you in an OB-GYN and how to go about finding the doctor that’s the right fit for you and your healthcare needs.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself as you go about looking for the best OB-GYN for you.

If you have health insurance, your policy documents should identify which OB-GYNs in your area participate in your plan.

In the United States, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) work differently. So, you’ll need to check your policy to find out what your costs will be if you pick a doctor who is out of your network.

If you are a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary, you can check the Physician Compare tool, which allows you to search by medical specialty.

The American Medical Association also maintains a doctor database that lets you search by specialty, state, and zip code.

It’s always a good idea to call the doctor’s office to confirm that they work with your insurance provider before you make an appointment.

Your co-workers, friends, and family members can be a great resource for finding an OB-GYN who’s a good fit for you. After all, they know you well, and likely have a good idea of the kind of doctor that you’d like.

Social media and neighborhood apps may also give you some valuable insights into a doctor’s personality, philosophy, and communication style.

Keep in mind, though, that online reviews may not always be as reliable as recommendations from people you know and trust.

OB-GYN doctors see patients in hospital-adjacent facilities, clinics, private practices, and group practices. If you plan to drive, how long will the trip take during peak traffic times? Does the facility offer plenty of free parking? If you’ll be using public transportation, is it a complicated or time-consuming route?

Since you’ll probably go to the doctor during the workday, think about what the trip is like from your job to the doctor, too.

Finding an OB-GYN doctor close to home is getting harder. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists anticipates a national shortage of nearly 22,000 OB-GYN doctors by 2050.

Being able to get to the OB-GYN is not just a matter of convenience. It’s a life-and-death equity issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that Black, Native American, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women are.

Studies have found that one of the biggest issues confronting these women is the lack of access to high quality healthcare during pregnancy.

When women can’t get access to high quality sexual and reproductive healthcare it endangers their overall health. This systemic problem is not just historic; it persists today.

Most OB-GYN practices offices have standard business hours during the week. Does that work for you or do you need more flexibility?

If getting to see an OB-GYN is difficult during regular hours, consider whether:

  • the doctor offers any evening or weekend hours
  • you can get in touch with an on-call doctor when the clinic is closed
  • the doctor offers telemedicine options that will allow you to have virtual visits
  • the doctor offers an online patient portal that allows you to communicate with them

A 2017 research review found that although some people are still a little reluctant to try telemedicine, patients who do use it cite numerous advantages.

They say it saves travel time and costs, improves their communication with their doctor, and helps them achieve better health outcomes.

Doctors usually have privileges with a certain regional or local hospital. If you have a strong preference for a hospital in your area, check to be sure that’s the hospital your prospective doctor uses.

If you’re planning to deliver your baby in a hospital, you may be able to tour the labor and delivery facilities in advance. It could influence your decision for or against a particular doctor.

Certification is an added level of education that indicates a doctor is an expert in a particular field of medical practice.

The American Board of Medical Specialties provides a database of board-certified doctors you can search. It’s called Certification Matters.

When doctors maintain board-certified status, they are required to stay up to date on research and practice standards. Board-certification status is ongoing. It’s not a one-and-done test.

You may want to ask about your doctor’s subspecialties. Some gynecologists do not deliver babies. Some are experts in menopause and perimenopause. Some specialize in treating cancers.

As you think about what life stages are coming up in your future, consider whether your doctor is equipped to provide the care you are going to need.

Research makes it clear that women are more vulnerable to mental health concerns than men are, especially during key life transitions such as the teen years, pregnancy, the postpartum period, and menopause.

It’s important to partner with an OB-GYN who recognizes the importance of good mental health. It helps to have a doctor who’ll regularly screen you for signs of depression and anxiety so these conditions can be prevented, detected early, and treated successfully if necessary.

You want a doctor who has the awareness and the skills to help you manage your mental health and wellness in each phase of your life.

Many doctors practice as part of a group. If your doctor isn’t available when you need an appointment, will you be expected to see another doctor?

Many practices rely on nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide primary care services. How comfortable are you with the other healthcare professionals in the practice?

If you’re planning to have a baby in the not-too-distant future, does the practice include a midwife or doula? Is it possible for you to deliver your baby in a birthing center or at home if you’re working with a midwife?

Considering these questions in advance could save you the hassle of changing doctors in the middle of a pregnancy.

It’s also crucial to pay attention to how the front and back office staff interact with you. They’re the ones you’ll communicate with much of the time, whether it’s scheduling appointments, answering billing questions, or refilling prescriptions.

You may also want to take note of the physical environment of the practice. Is the waiting room clean and comfortable? Are the patient rooms organized and well-stocked? Does the equipment look clean and relatively modern?

Though the appearance of the clinic may seem superficial, it could be an indication of how well the healthcare team will care for you.

For lots of women, going to the OB/GYN is a tricky business. On one hand, good sexual and reproductive healthcare can save your life and keep you healthy.

On the other, visiting this kind of doctor can cause anxiety, physical discomfort, and embarrassment.

If you’re a survivor of sexual abuse, sexual assault, racism, domestic violence, or trauma, or if you are a transgender or intersex person, your trust in medical professionals may be pretty low. You may need an OB-GYN who’s particularly sensitive to the distress that gynecological exams can provoke. You may also prefer a doctor with a particular gender or gender presentation.

If you’re concerned about having an adverse reaction to a physical exam, it might be beneficial to schedule an in-person meeting or videoconference with your doctor to talk about what you need to feel safe and comfortable.

Talking about your body, your sex life, and your reproductive health can be hard. What makes it easier? An OB-GYN who listens — really listens — and answers all your questions in a way you understand.

You want an OB-GYN who lets you finish your questions without interrupting and who doesn’t wave away your concerns or pass judgment on your choices.

It’s not imperative that you and your doctor share the same views on every issue, but it’s important to know about some basic views and values up front. For instance:

  • How does your doctor view pain management?
  • How open is your doctor to natural alternatives?
  • How does your doctor view access to reliable birth control?
  • Will your doctor perform a vaginal birth after C-section?
  • Will your doctor perform an abortion if you need one? (Just 14 percent of OB-GYNs do).
  • How sex-positive is your doctor? (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the answer should be very).

Finding the right OB-GYN is important to your physical, emotional, sexual, and reproductive health.

Apart from purely practical considerations like distance, hours, and insurance coverage, it’s also a good idea to evaluate the doctor’s qualifications, communication style, and views on healthcare options that matter to you. Also, think about the practice as a whole, since you’re likely to be interacting with more than just your OB-GYN.

You’re forming what could be a lasting partnership with a doctor who will have a significant impact on your health. So, take all the time you need to find one that makes you feel comfortable and at ease with every aspect of your reproductive, hormonal, and sexual health.