As a woman, you have unique health care needs that change throughout every stage of your life. You’ll want to partner with the right obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) — a doctor who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. They have special training in women’s reproductive health, as well as pregnancy, labor, and childbirth.
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Where to Start
Having the right ob-gyn is especially important if you’re pregnant or plan to start a family. You’ll have questions and concerns, and you’ll want to feel supported. Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for an ob-gyn.
Determine What Type of Doctor You Need
First, decide which kind of doctor you need. Your options include:
- An obstetrician who cares for women during pregnancy and immediately afterward
- A gynecologist who specializes in women’s health and reproductive system from adolescence through menopause and beyond
- An ob-gyn who specializes in both
If you’re not planning to have a child in the near future, a gynecologist will suit your needs. But if you’re hoping to get pregnant in the next few years, you may want to choose an ob-gyn. They can provide you with well-woman care and family planning services now, and obstetrics services when you’re ready.
Find Someone Who Accepts Your Health Insurance
The best place to start your search for an ob-gyn (or any health care provider) is with your health insurance company. It’s important to confirm that your doctor is part of the network and taking new patients. Check the insurance provider’s website for a list of doctors and medical groups. Then call the doctor’s office to confirm participation.
Choose a Convenient Location
For now, you may only need routine well-woman care once a year. When you’re pregnant, you’ll be at your ob-gyn’s office more often. An office location close to home makes those weekly visits in your last trimester much easier.
Ask for Referrals
Check with friends, family, and neighbors for referrals — especially if they’re at the same life stage. Ask if they have an ob-gyn they love and recommend. Put together a list of names and cross-check to see who accepts your health insurance.
Things to Consider
Once you have a shortlist of doctors, it’s time to narrow it down. Consider the following factors to match the best ob-gyn with your personal health care needs:
Do you have a pre-existing health condition that needs special attention? Is your pregnancy high risk? Do you have a family history of ovarian or uterine cancer?
If you have special health care needs, you’ll want a doctor with expertise and a strong track record in those areas. Check their website or call the office to ask about professional background and experience.
Women with a strong family history of ovarian or uterine cancer may want to choose a gynecologic oncologist — a doctor who diagnoses and treats cancers of the reproductive system — for routine care.
Many ob-gyns work with a team that includes nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified midwives. Consider if you want the option of scheduling appointments with other practitioners.
If you’re pregnant, ask who will deliver your baby if your doctor is not available. Also, find out what to do in case of emergency and how to communicate with questions or smaller issues. A larger practice might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s nice to know there’s a team available to support you.
Their Approach to Care
If you have strong feelings about medicine use, your birth plan, or medical wishes, ask if the doctor is open to hearing them. Your doctor should keep your concerns in mind while providing a professional perspective based on research and experience.
Ask what hospital the ob-gyn works with. If you’re hospitalized for a health problem or to deliver your baby, you want a quality hospital with an excellent reputation. Part of a world-renowned health care system, UPMC hospitals provide quality, comprehensive care for emergencies and routine procedures.
A Personality Match
The ability to communicate often makes for a perfect match between a patient and a health care provider. It’s essential to feel comfortable asking questions. The right ob-gyn should be someone you trust, who understands your concerns and explains things clearly.
Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on what makes a doctor a good match — they just are. Make sure you’re satisfied with the decision before becoming a patient.
About UPMC Magee-Womens
Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.
Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.