How do I find a good gynecologist?

September 7, 2010 at 11:51 pm 18 comments

I always ask new patients, “How did you find me?”  The answers I get are fascinating.  Some patients see me because their friend is my patient and they were told I am a good doctor.  Others are referred to me by their primary care providers or other specialists.  Some patients picked my name out of a register of providers in their insurance network.  Still others found me on the internet.

It all seems so random.  There are so many doctors out there and so many ways to pick from among them.  But (besides getting a recommendation from a doctor, friend, or family member you trust) what’s the best way to pick a doctor?  And once you’ve selected one, how can you check-up on the person who does your check-ups? 

The importance of finding a good gynecologist can't be understated!

There are certain things I look for when choosing a doctor.  For one thing, I’d like somebody who takes my health insurance.  If you don’t have coverage for out-of-network providers, it can be a burden to pay “out-of-pocket” for health services.  (It may be worth paying extra to see a doctor with special training or qualifications, but that depends on your healthcare needs and your ability to cover the cost.)

The website for your health insurance company probably lists covered providers in a database that can be searched by specialty and location.  Always call the doctor’s office to find out whether a provider is in your network (or will accept your out-of-network benefits).  Online lists may be out of date and include providers who are no longer in network and may not include providers who have joined more recently.

If you don’t have health insurance, you can call a doctor’s office to inquire about his or her fees before the visit.  Also ask about additional fees for lab work or pathology (which can be important if you are having testing for sexually transmitted diseases, are having a Pap smear, or need a biopsy).  Otherwise you may be surprised by the amount you are charged at check-out or by mail a few weeks later.

Once you have selected a few possible providers, you’ll want to find out a little more information about them.  Many providers have a website for their practice or have a bio posted on a hospital website.  This information may help you learn where the doctor went to college and medical school.  You can also find out where he or she completed residency (and in which specialty), and where any fellowship or advanced training took place. 

The government is also checking up on your doctor.  This is done through a process through which physicians must apply for and maintain a license to practice medicine in a given state.  Physicians submit information to the state medical board who evaluate the adequacy of a physician’s training.  They also seek to know whether a physician has been convicted of a crime, and whether he or she is fit (physically, mentally) to practice. 

Most physicians will make their state license readily available, often displaying it in their office.  The medical board of most states also offer a site online where you can look up a physician by name.  The American Medical Association has a site where you can find a link to your state medical board. Physicians can (and often do) hold licenses in multiple states.

Whatever you do, make sure your doctor makes you comfortable at the time of your visit.  A positive relationship with your doctor is key to making good health decisions!

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Reshmi  |  March 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you for your advice on finding the right doctor. I have to say that this is one of the most difficult tasks we women have to do. I am looking for some advice on what kind of a doctor to see regarding trying to conceive and having hyperthyroid. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • 2. drnicoll  |  March 24, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Reshmi,
      Hyperthyroidism can be an impediment to achieving pregnancy. But it can be effectively managed with medication in most patients. An endocrinologist is the most appropriate specialist to consult regarding management of hyperthyroidism. Your primary care provider can arrange for a referral if your insurance carrier requires it.
      The first step in trying to conceive is to see your ob/gyn provider. Seeing a generalist in obstetrics and gynecology is the first step in trying to conceive. He or she can then determine whether you require the help of a specialist (such as a Reproductive Endocrinologist to treat infertility or a Perinatologist / Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist to control hyperthyroidism during pregnancy).
      In the meantime, all women considering becoming parents should be taking a supplement containing 400-800 micrograms of folic acid. You may also find good suggestions in these brochures from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology on pregnancy planning and good health prior to pregnancy
      Best of luck!
      -Dr. N

      Reply
  • 3. Reshmi  |  April 21, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you for your response doctor. I took your advice and went to see a ob-gyn. Would you be able to provide me with an endocronologist as the first suggestion is to take care of my thyroid? The few that my doctor referred me to are not available for appointments until Mid July. I would like to take care of this as soon as possible. By the way I am in the NYC area. Thanks again!!

    Reply
  • 4. coolbeans18  |  August 16, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Hello, I had surgery for FNH tumors 10 years ago. One of the tumors was bleeding internally, they came out along with a healthy gallbladder.I was on the pill for 18 years prior to surgery and went off immediatley. I am now 46. Since then I have struggled with my weight and stress etc. I now have a small nodule on my thyroid,multiple small fnh tumors, and an enlarged fibroid. I have been told that I am prediabetic,have metabolic syndrome and estrogen dominant which is creating all this growth in fibroids and tumors. Is there a way to reduce the estrogen and shrink the fiborids, with vitamins, medicine or acupuncture. I am trying to avoid surgery as much as possible but the stress is making everything worse. Do you see paitients for this? I am in NJ and would love to come to see you. Thanks for your help

    Reply
    • 5. drnicoll  |  August 18, 2011 at 6:41 am

      Hi CB,
      I’m sorry, but I do not treat FNH tumors. I don’t know anybody specific to whom I can refer you, but I encourage you to speak to your current doctors to get referrals or to seek out experts in that particular field.
      Wishing you the best of luck,
      Dr. N

      Reply
  • 6. Naira H  |  October 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Hi Dr Nicoll. I am 45 year old and live in Los Angeles. I am 2 weeks pregnant and have 5 cm fibroid. I am looking for a new doctor since my old OBGYN wants to see me only at 3 months of pregnancy, What you will suggest?

    Reply
    • 7. drnicoll  |  October 3, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Naira,
      I don’t give out individual medical advice over the internet, but I can tell you that, in general, most obstetric practices have a standard number of weeks at which they would like to see you for an initial pregnancy visit. Most providers are happy to comply with a request to be seen earlier for special circumstances.

      I suggest that you call your current doctor and discuss your current medical situation. If you are not satisfied with the care you are receiving, then seek out another provider in a timely fashion.

      Some of the best ways to find a new obstetric care provider is to ask your primary care doctor for a referral, consult the website of a good hospital for the names of affiliated physicians, or to ask friends for the name of a doctor they liked (always checking whether or not the doctor takes your insurance ).

      Best of luck (and congratulations!),
      -Dr. N

      Reply
  • 8. Maame Akua Aggrey  |  December 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    i want to find out something.I got pregnant this time last year,but had a miscarriage in my 7th week,am pregnant again this time and am few weeks gone,but am so scared that it might happen again.Am experiencing the pains that u get when u having your mences,can i go through my pregnancy or i can get the miscarriage again?

    Reply
    • 9. drnicoll  |  December 18, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      Hi Maame,
      As I have stated in other posts and in my “About Me” section, I don’t dispense individual gynecologic diagnosis or treatment recommendations on this site. I strongly encourage you to contact your healthcare provider (your gynecologist or primary care provider) to discuss your symptoms and address these important questions.
      Wishing you the best of luck,
      Dr. N

      Reply
  • 10. lylaburns123  |  March 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you for this great advice! I am starting to look for my very first gynecologist, and I have found it to be very difficult. It is definitely personal which makes it hard to find a good dr. It’s important to me to have a good gynecology office that is professional and and makes me feel comfortable. Thanks again for the tips!

    Reply
  • 11. http://mensengagementrings.ca  |  March 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Whoah this blog is excellent i really like studying your articles. Keep up the good work! You recognize, many people are hunting around for this info, you can help them greatly.

    Reply
  • 12. Maureen Haggerty  |  April 23, 2012 at 11:31 am

    My daughter may be missing her uterus. She has a lengthy medical history. She has the 22Q.11 deletion syndrome and is missing a kidney. This has probably led to her uterus not developing. She has had 3 pelvic sonos. They can’t see her ovaries or much else because she has many collateral vessels blocking the view. I am have trouble finding a dr who can at least help us confirm this diagnosis. My daughter is 19. Do you deal with congenital defects of the uterus etc.? I need someone who is sensitive to special needs and will pursue this further for us. So far we have dealt with endocrinology. They don;t seem to know where to send us. Should she see a uro- gyno, an endo-gyno or some other?

    Reply
    • 13. drnicoll  |  April 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Maureen,
      There are many types of gynecologic disorders in which the vagina, uterus, and ovaries do not take their usual form and position. They are too varied to go into detail here. But there is a gynecologic disorder called “Mullerian agenesis” or “Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome” in which all or part of the upper female reproductive tract may be absent (including the uterus). It is often associated with renal (kidney) abnormalities– including an absent or “missing” kidney. I don’t know whether your daughter may have this disorder. It can only be diagnosed in individuals after a doctor takes a thorough history, reviews her prior records, and possibly, orders the appropriate tests.
      A general gynecologist may have experience with this disorder and be able to recognize it. It is usually diagnosed in an adolescent or young woman when she fails to start menstruating (but has already developed breasts and pubic hair). A pelvic ultrasound (sonogram) may suggest the diagnosis. An MRI (magnetic resonance image) can also be very helpful and is often recommended when the diagnosis is unclear on ultrasound. Blood tests can be used to confirm normal ovarian function.
      I have experience with this disorder but every doctor’s experience and patient population varies. If a particular doctor does not have experience with these disorders, they can be difficult to recognize. A second opinion from a reproductive endocrinologist or specialist in adolescent gynecology may be helpful. A urogynecologist usually does not treat this condition.
      I hope this was helpful in identifying an appropriate person for your daughter to see as a patient.
      Best of luck!
      -Dr N

      Reply
  • 14. Maureen Haggerty  |  April 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

    This was very helpful. I may call and make an appointment with you.

    Reply
  • 15. Marissa  |  December 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Hello,
    I was wondering if my 16 year old daughter should begin seeing my gynecologist? I’m still confused on the new age recommendations I am hearing. When I was her age, I know I went to the Gynecologist around her age. She is not sexually active and she doesn’t seem to have major concerns, however, is it a good time for her to go in for her first Pap smear? And lastly, She wants to consider birth control because her flow and cramps on her period are overwhelming and it keeps her home a lot. Is a Pap smear or pelvic exam required for this? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • 16. drnicoll  |  December 23, 2012 at 3:56 am

      Hi Marissa,
      The first step in any adolescent’s care is to consult her pediatrician. Although routine annual pap smears are recommended starting at age 21, other care such as oral contraceptives, treatment of menstrual disorders, HPV vaccination, STD screening, and counseling about safer sex practices are available to younger patients under a gynecologist’s care. A vaginal or pelvic exam is usually avoided in teens who are not sexually active. But if an exam is necessary, it should be preceded by a thorough explanation. It is likely a parent will be asked to accompany a teenage patient for the exam.
      If the pediatrician recommends seeing a gynecologist, they can often recommend a good provider in your neighborhood.
      Best of luck,
      Dr. N

      Reply
  • 17. Vanessa  |  January 5, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Hi, I recently turn 20 and have never been to a gynecologist. The last doctor I asked help reguarding issue “down there” hurt me and then told me it didn’t hurt. An hour and half later it still felt raw. So needless to say I am a little nervous about this happening again. My question is do I need to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist, I have questions and don’t want to end up at that one doctor.

    Reply
    • 18. drnicoll  |  January 26, 2014 at 3:15 am

      Hi Vanessa,
      A gynecologist is a specialist in women’s health and “down there” issues. Although you’re no longer a teenager, you may be interested to know that some gynecologists specialize in adolescent medicine. Such a specialist might be a good choice for a young woman’s first visit. Otherwise, a good way to find a gynecologist who is sensitive and caring is to ask for a recommendation from friends and co-workers. Doctors who do their job well will earn the trust of their patients. They earn their reputation and recommendations! So ask around. And when seeing a new doctor, it’s always good to discuss prior negative experiences together so that your new visit is handled with care and sensitivity.
      Best of luck!
      -Dr N

      Reply

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Linda M. Nicoll, MD

Welcome to my blog! Here you will find information about minimally invasive gynecologic surgery as well as some more general information about common gynecologic disorders such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids, infertility, and pelvic pain.

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