Your OB-GYN (or obstetrician-gynecologist) is the healthcare professional that specialises in female reproductive health. They screen for STDs or STIs, do breast examinations, pap smears, make sure that you are in optimal health if you’re trying to conceive. They will also discuss birth control, family planning, and answer questions about contraception.
Though recommendations vary with age and change over time, many women see their OB-GYNs at least once a year. Many women find it difficult to bond with their doctor but, like any relationship, it takes mutual time and effort to get past the awkwardness of the conversation and think about what’s good for your health: that’s confidence in the person playing such an intimate role in your life. Here are some ways to build up a good relationship with your OB-GYN.
Take Your Time, Do Your Research
Many women find themselves using word of mouth, which is a great start. Each doctor is going to have their own bedside manner and the one that suits you will be unique to you and your needs. Before you schedule an appointment, take your time to read reviews online. Look for credentials, specialties, years in practice, patient reviews and ratings, education and, in some cases, data about malpractice, sanctions and board actions. The more you know about them, the more confident you will feel asking questions.
Prepare for Your Appointment
Chances are that your OB-GYN has a calendar full of appointments. While none of which take away from your value as a patient, it helps to make the most of your time together by preparing ahead of time. Take a few minutes to make a list of any symptoms and how long they’ve been present. Consider writing out any medication (prescription or non-prescription) and the dosages of each. List any questions or concerns about health issues that you may have. This will also show the doctor that their time is valuable to you, reinforcing the relationship.
Be Direct and Honest
Chances are that your doctor has seen and heard it all. Don’t be shy when it comes to asking about discharge, vaginal dryness, sex, bumps, periods or leakage of urine. A big part of the job is to educate women on these seemingly abnormal occurrences. The more you share, the more informed and confident you will be about your health.
Bring A Companion Along
It is easy to walk out of an appointment feeling confused or even forgetful. Having someone in the room who is aware of your current situation can help in understanding any diagnoses or instructions that are given. It can also give you the confidence to speak up in case things get too complex. A spouse, friend or family member can take notes or record the meeting (with permission from your doctor) for your reference later. Having more than one person in the appointment can also remind the doctor of their commitments to you, not to mention, their obligations to such an intimate patient-doctor relationship.
Do Not Feel Bad About Asking Questions
Unless you dropped in, remember that this is your appointment and another step to optimal health. As long as you’re not coming with a laundry list of self-diagnoses that you found on Google Search, a good doctor will listen to your fears, concerns, give advice and genuinely appreciate your attempts to take responsibility for your care. If you feel like you are discussing such important topics with someone who seems uninterested, judgmental, or short on time, this may be a sign that they are not the right doctor for you.
Leave an online review
This is a business, after all, and if you enjoy the service, make sure to tell others about it. Your OB-GYN will greatly appreciate a short review of their best traits. Bedside manner, emotional intelligence, patience, office ambiance or cleanliness, nurses/receptionist temperament are all great topics to comment on and will help to boost their client base. On the other hand, if there is something that doesn’t satisfy you, remember that we are all human. Give them the chance to fix any mistakes or offences before heading to the internet.
Kristen Scott Ndiaye is a social entrepreneur, sexual + reproductive health advocate, a mother of two and is obsessed with three things: (1) her family; (2) the phenomenon of girlhood; and (3) the thought of education as being the key to taking control. She enjoys finding the answers to her own questions and sharing them through her writing.