If you’re experiencing issues with your reproductive system — you’re having heavy bleeding, intense cramps, or other concerning symptoms — it’s time to visit a gynecologist. Even if you’re perfectly healthy, you’ll want to get regular checkups to ensure that your reproductive organs are healthy, and that they stay that way.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that young women see a gynecologist for the first time between their 13th and 15th birthdays. No matter your age, if you don’t already have a doctor in charge of your reproductive care, it’s time to find one.

Because you’ll be discussing your most intimate and personal health issues with this doctor, you’ll want to find someone with experience who you can trust. Here are a few things to look for in a gynecologist.

One of the best ways to tell whether a gynecologist is worth seeing is if the people you trust — like your primary care provider, female friends, and relatives — vouch for them. When you ask for recommendations, find out about important factors like the doctor’s skills, experience, and bedside manner.

Once you have the names of a few gynecologists, check out their reviews on doctor rating websites like healthgrades.com, vitals.com, and zocdoc.com. These websites ask patients to rate doctors based on measurements such as:

  • ease of scheduling appointments
  • office environment
  • average wait time
  • staff friendliness
  • trustworthiness
  • ability to explain conditions well

You’ll also see a list of patient comments and starred ratings. One or two negative reviews among many good ones is probably nothing to worry about, but dozens of poor write-ups should be a big red flag.

While you’re searching online, check out the gynecologist’s credentials. You should be able to find the doctor’s bio on the same websites that offer reviews, as well as on their practice’s website.

Find out:

  • where the doctor went to medical school and
    completed their residency
  • if they’re board certified by the American Board
    of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • how many years they’ve practiced
  • which hospital(s) they’re affiliated with
  • what their specialties are
  • whether they’ve had any complaints, disciplinary
    actions, or malpractice suits filed against them

Ask about the doctor’s specialty, too. Some may focus more on obstetrics, others on gynecology. If you’re getting evaluated for a particular condition — such as endometriosis — find out what kind of experience your doctor has in treating it.

Cost is an important consideration when choosing any doctor. If the gynecologist is out of your network, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for your care, which can add up quickly. Check with your insurance plan at the start of your search to see which gynecologists in your area are included in your network.

Your gynecologist is going to advise you on topics like birth control and pregnancy — so try to find out how they view these subjects early on. This way, you don’t have to deal with an uncomfortable situation should they have an opposite standpoint from yours.

A doctor with a curt, dismissive bedside manner may make you lose confidence despite their years of experience. You want a doctor who will both listen to you and respect what you have to say. The best doctors don’t order or preach to their patients — they engage in open two-way communication.

This is the doctor who’ll be performing your gynecologic exam and who’ll ask you highly personal questions about your reproductive health. You need to be completely comfortable with this person for the relationship to work.

Gender may be an issue when it comes to choosing a gynecologist. Some women do prefer being seen by a doctor of the same gender. Some cultural or religious backgrounds will direct a woman to a female doctor. If you’d prefer to be cared for by a female gynecologist, factor that into your choice. But also consider which provider will give you the highest level of care and who is available, convenient, and in network.

Your gynecologist’s hospital is the one you’ll visit for any tests or treatments related to your reproductive health, or to deliver a baby. Make sure that the hospital your doctor is affiliated with maintains high-quality standards.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends that when evaluating a hospital, you check measures like:

  • the percentage of patients who developed
    infections or complications after surgery
  • death rates for different types of conditions
    and procedures
  • patients’ reviews of the care and service they

Websites like Consumer Reports and The Joint Commission all offer easily accessible online hospital ratings.

Also consider the hospital’s location. If you have a chronic condition, you might have to visit with some regularity. A long drive could interfere with your ability to get the care and follow-ups you need.

Your gynecologist is an important member of your healthcare team. Because this person will see you for annual exams and manage a significant percentage of your healthcare, you’ll want to find someone experienced who you trust. Getting recommendations and knowing which questions to ask can help you find the right gynecologist for you.