Finding a Good Gynecologist

When I was a little girl, I thought the most embarrassing and uncomfortable experience at the doctor’s office was when the nurse pulled down my pants and shoved a needle into my puny butt cheek. And then I became a woman.

No woman enjoys the gynecologist (although I do prefer it to the dentist, which is a whole other story). What fun stuff happens at the gynecologist? Oh yeah, great stuff like:

  • Wearing a tissue-thin paper gown shaped like a rectangle.
  • Getting yourself into a lie-down/squat position and stretching your knees from east to west.
  • Having a speculum inserted into your private area and twisted like a car jack.
  • Attempting to carry on casual conversation with the doctor who is peeking, poking, and prodding all of your girly parts.

[Insert super-sarcastic tone]: Yeah, great stuff.

Yet maturity involves choosing a bit of discomfort now for the best results in the future, so we adults go to the doctor to have our health checked and physical symptoms resolved. In fact, we are blessed to live in an era in which treatment and healing are available for illnesses and difficulties which caused significant pain or death in the past.

I have one of those childbirth stories that ends with “Thank goodness for modern medicine.”Woman doctor illustration

Doctor

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

So your gynecologist is important. This person will help you maintain your feminine health and, if you birth children, will deliver your babies. You need someone whose medical expertise you can fully trust.

You also need a gynecologist with whom you can discuss your sex life. Throughout your married life, you may face physical challenges that interfere with healthy sexual intimacy. They could range from minor yeast infections to hormonal changes affecting your sex drive to more severe issues like vaginismus. If at some point you face an illness or surgery, you want to be able to discuss, for instance, not only the mastectomy but how it is impacting intimacy with your husband. You need a doctor who will listen to you, show compassion, and pursue solutions when difficulties arise.

Here are some questions for choosing a gynecologist:

Am I comfortable in their presence? You need to be comfortable in their office. You will be talking about your body’s issues, exposing your private areas, and relying on their medical advice. A lot of women believe they will be more comfortable with a female doctor. (However, I have had several female gynecologists and one male. Hands down, the male doctor was the most compassionate; if he hadn’t retired, I’d be with him still.) You indeed may find that you speak more easily to someone in your age group or with similar life circumstances. You may prefer a parental type. But whatever your preference is, make sure you are comfortable in that exam room — as much as you can be in a paper gown — and can open up.

Do they listen to my concerns? Does your appointment feel rushed, allowing you little time to converse about your health? Are you given an opportunity to ask questions and present concerns? When you describe what you’re experiencing, does your doctor restate the issue to ensure understanding and ask follow-up questions? Does he or she believe what you describe? For instance, if you report severe menstrual cramping or pain in sexual intercourse, is that report taken seriously or dismissed as “normal”? Do you feel like your doctor wants to know how you’re doing? Your doctor needs to listen carefully to your concerns. You want to make sure that he does not overlook health issues that can be addressed and treated.

What health model do they use? Two issues in particular are that they have reasons for doing what they do and that their beliefs regarding medical intervention align with your own. Your doctor needs to be able to adequately explain her approach, reasoning, and course of action. As to belief systems aligning, some people are comfortable with a traditional medical model in which a condition is diagnosed and an accompanying treatment is prescribed. Others desire “alternative health” treatments, including herbal supplements, chiropractic manipulation, and other approaches. Some want their doctor to address dietary choices in detail; others do not. Ultimately, this is your body and your health. I won’t tell you which track I take, but you need to be convinced of the path you and your doctor are taking.

This can be especially important with childbirth. There are a number of choices available now — with home births, midwives, obstetricians, hospitals, Lamaze, C-sections, etc. Study the options thoroughly and choose a doctor who supports your approach.

(This one is hard for me to leave alone, given my experience. I advise that if you choose a nontraditional route, be sure that emergency care is readily available if needed.)

Do they stay updated on medical and health issues? There are medical researchers all across the nation and around the world. Health and medicine are areas in which we make new discoveries all the time. Breast cancer used to be an automatic killer; it’s not now. Women with placenta abruptia or previa in childbirth used to die of hemorrhaging; they rarely do now. Better screenings, medicines, treatments, etc. have increased our ability to address many feminine issues.

You want your doctor to be up-to-date on the state of their medical field. Even if you have chosen an alternative route, there are studies and health journals in those fields as well. You don’t want to miss out on an effective treatment only because it is recent and your doctor didn’t keep up.

How thorough are the examinations? Your total health should be part of the exam. You should be asked questions about medical history, family of origin background, presenting problems, medicines taken, and lifestyle. You should have regular urine and blood work testing. Pap smears can detect cervical cancer, and mammograms can detect breast cancer. Your breasts, pelvis, vagina, cervix, uterus, and rectum should be examined by a doctor. The gynecologist will often also check vital signs, lungs, and heart for overall health. You don’t want anything missed.

Do they recognize the importance of sex in marriage? I’ll tell a personal story here. After one of my children was born, I experienced very low estrogen. TWICE I told my gynecologist that sex was painful for me. Her response? “Well, it’s not going to feel great after having a baby. It just takes a while.” After another night of my husband trying to penetrate my vagina, it feeling like a two-edged sword was entering me, crying buckets, and him stopping and consoling me in his arms, I decided to trust my own belief that something was wrong. Thank goodness that my doctor was unavailable when I called, and I got to see her nurse practitioner instead. This angelic woman looked at me, immediately diagnosed low estrogen, and prescribed vaginal cream. Within a week or so, I was fine. Needless to say, I changed doctors for the next baby.

This doctor did not give the proper weight to intimacy. She never asked how my sex life was post-childbirth, and when I shared my concerns, she dismissed them. I don’t deal with that anymore. I have found a doctor with whom I can discuss my sex life. If you have a low sex drive or difficulty during intimacy, you need to be able to discuss this honestly with your doctor. You may have a medical problem. If so, you want a doctor willing to pursue treatments to assist you. You should not have to sacrifice intimacy with your husband because of a change in hormones or physical issues. There often are answers. Your doctor should be supportive of your quest for marital intimacy.

These are my recommendations. I am blessed to have had several wonderful doctors care for me — the obstetrician who delivered my baby in less-than-ideal circumstances, the gynecologist who performed my endometrial ablation, and my current physician with whom I can discuss anything. God bless ’em.

What are your tips for finding a good gynecologist? What have you learned along the way? What do you look for in a gynecologist?

24 thoughts on “Finding a Good Gynecologist

  1. Greg

    Gynecologist visit better than the dentist? :-O You’re going to tell us about that in a future post, J, right? FWIW, “digital” (gotta love euphemisms) prostate exams for us males over 40 aren’t fun either, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they pale in comparison to what women have to go through. 🙁 However, if it makes any woman out there feel better, I still believe God gave women the far better design. 🙂

    1. J

      No big story. I’ve hated dental visits since childhood; once closed my mouth and wouldn’t open, and my mom just had to take me home. (I’ve apologized to her since.)

      None of the private area poking is fun — for men or women. But necessary at times. Thanks, Greg.

  2. Sexy Christian Wife

    We go to a group of doctor’s, kind of a family practice kind of thing. And I always specifically ask for the woman when I have any private questions, it helps me to feel more comfortable.

  3. Jennifer

    I started out with my mom’s obgyn…the one who delivered me and saved our lives in the process. He was a wonderful grandfatherly man. However…he was not a gentle gynecologist. I have had 2 other docs in the last 14 years. Both have been gentle and willing to listen to what I have had to say. My most recent doc delivered my son in an emergency c-section and saved his life (apparently my mom and I are not built for birthing babies). I have loved this doc since my 1st appt with her almost 10 yrs ago. Unfortunately her hubby is military and was restationed last year right after my exam. So now I am searching for a new doc. I have met several of her partners and I like all of them on a speaking level but I am not sure which one to choose for my exam which is due in about 6 weeks. Yikes!

  4. Jennifer

    I started out with my mom’s obgyn…the one who delivered me and saved our lives in the process. He was a wonderful grandfatherly man. However…he was not a gentle gynecologist. I have had 2 other docs in the last 14 years. Both have been gentle and willing to listen to what I have had to say. My most recent doc delivered my son in an emergency c-section and saved his life (apparently my mom and I are not built for birthing babies). I have loved this doc since my 1st appt with her almost 10 yrs ago. Unfortunately her hubby is military and was restationed last year right after my exam. So now I am searching for a new doc. I have met several of her partners and I like all of them on a speaking level but I am not sure which one to choose for my exam which is due in about 6 weeks. Yikes!

    1. J

      Just remember, JENNIFER, that you are not “stuck” with someone. Give it a try and see how it goes. If you’re not comfortable with the doc after a while, you can ask for someone else. I once changed pediatricians within a practice, and there were no hard feelings at all. It was simply a better personality click.

      Best wishes!

    1. J

      All of the dentist’s equipment make disturbing noises. At least that car jack things at the GYN doesn’t make a cranking noise! LOL.

  5. Cat

    So…I have a great story! My first gyno visit was right before my wedding. I was already nervous, it being the first time and all, but then, as I was sitting on the table in my paper gown, an alarm goes off in the building. I’m listening, wondering if I should jump up and put my clothes back on in case we have to evacuate, but thinking SURELY someone would come tell me. After a few minutes, a nurse pokes her head in and tells me not to worry, this happens all the time, just ignore it. I breathe a sigh of relief and continue waiting. After ANOTHER few minutes, another nurse rushes in and tells me we have to evacuate the building and starts trying to rush me out the door! It’s December, by the way, and all I’m wearing is a paper towel posing as a gown! I quickly pull on my jeans (not so comfy sans panties!) and coat, but the paper gown is definitely still hanging out, and we join a mass exodus of people descending the stairwell. This was a medical office building that contains a gynocologist’s office, so there were so many people…men, women, children, and EVERYONE else was dressed normally! I was SO embarrassed! Pretty much as soon as we got to the ground floor, we were given the “all-clear” to return to normal. I rode back up in the elevator, sure everyone was staring at me thinking, “I know what SHE’s here for!” Thankfully, future visits have been much less eventful. Now I tell that story while they feel me up for the breast exam…it passes the time! 🙂

    1. J

      Oh my goodness, Cat! I apologize for chuckling at your embarrassing story. But that sounds like a sitcom scene!

      By the way, I have wondered what to discuss during that breast exam. Somehow “How’s the weather?” doesn’t seem appropriate, nor does “Buy me a drink?”

  6. Ngina Otiende

    Thanks for the info J..can always count on you for practical information that often kicks my ‘hind :).

    I’ve just recently (well, like months ago) relocated to US and I need to find me a gyna..I’ve been lazing around about it…but now I remember why i need to asap. :).

    Thanks for tips, now I know what to look for here (things are a bit different where i come from 🙂

    blessings!

    1. J

      Yes, medical care varies across nations. Best wishes finding a terrific doc here in the States. And welcome, Ngina!

  7. kris

    mine was a referral and I really like her, though she is really young, but she takes her time, talks and asks questions. The one that delivered my son was French, hard to understand, and I liked her but always seemed rushed. I read the post about your ablation, I’m looking into that since Aunt Flo is visiting twice a month!! Hope my results will be like yours!!

    BTW… got some cocunut oil! 🙂

    1. J

      Yes, rushed is a red flag for me. It usually only takes a few extra minutes to listen to a patient. Of course, we should be aware that the doctor has other patients and be respectful of their time, but when they are in our exam room, OUR health is the focus.

      Enjoy the coconut oil, Kris. I have yet to get mine! It’s on the list.

    2. kris

      you have to look for it, I wasn’t expecting it to be in a jar and solid!! So we got a 3 oz bottle to put it in, perfect, but it has to be rewarmed each use, because it goes back to solid. But it’s nice! :)and it doesn’t smell like coconut either. I can send you a pic if you want, email me..info on Blogger.

    3. thop

      If you get the pharmacy grade or extra virgin c/o, it smells way more like coconut, if you like that better. The food grade regular c/o is more muted on the coconut smell, to me. I put mine in a small vitamin e bottle. Only put a little in, then when we get ready to use it we just put it either on the mattress warmer or in our hand to warm it. During the summer months, it’s not an issue. 🙂 Have fun with it! We absolutely love it.

  8. Christy

    Ha only 5 comments? It’s because everyone is sitting at home thinking to themselves,”Shoot I missed my yearly check up didn’t I?” Guilt is taking over. I dont have any wise advice. I just want a woman who knows her stuff, gets in and gets the job done and is easy to talk to. Not to distracted ya’ know? Other than that I just get the deed done once a year and be done with it. Now a good dentist? There’s a topic. LOL!

    1. J

      Yes, I suppose I made the assumption that women actually go to the gynecologist regularly! It’s definitely a priority to keep up with it.

      One of the reasons I shudder at the thought of ever moving from where I live is that I like all of my docs — dentist included — and I can’t stand the thought of having to find a whole new set. Good luck with the dentist, Christy!

  9. Anonymous

    0_0 i didn’t even go to the dr for my post baby check up.. in my defense i was pretty upset with him at the time for the way he acted during l&d.. i digress i should prolly make an appt for the mw to get checked out lol

  10. Mrs. Right

    I LOVED my midwife! She would do the pap test at the 6-week post-partum checkup, and would do them yearly as well, though since my babies were all 2 yr apart I don’t think I had a non-baby checkup for a very long time 🙂 It was still awkward to have done, but so much less embarrassing than my first one w/ a male doctor. He called my husband over, “hey, want to see her cervix?” SOOOO embarrassing!

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