Having a good ob/gyn is important, no matter what stage of life you’re in, but with all the changes and weirdness of perimenopause and menopause, a good gynecologist can be the difference between barely surviving and thriving.

And gynecologists of any kind are getting harder to find: according to Fortune, “By 2020, there will be a shortage of up to 8,800 OB-GYNs, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And by 2050, the shortage may grow to 22,000.”

That doesn’t mean you should settle for anything less than the right and best doctor for you.

To help you decide if the doc you’ve got is the right doc for you, we asked the doc who’s perfect for us: genneve Director of Health and ob/gyn Dr. Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su.

You need a new ob/gyn: how do you know when you’ve found a good one?

According to Dr. Rebecca, the key to finding a beneficial therapeutic relationship is finding the right balance of some key ingredients:

  1. Comfort and relatability – are you able to communicate well together?
  2. Their knowledge, experience, and credentials – do they have any special training or interest in menopause?
  3. Their ability to treat you appropriately – are they open to all the possibilities?

So, says Dr. Rebecca, since they’ll spend plenty of time assessing you, it’s worth your time to take a moment to assess them.

One: Have a “talking” appointment with the doctor

“Go for an appointment and talk with them about your concerns and issues. If you’re in the US, often they’ll only have 15 – 30 minutes to spend with you (thank you, American medical system), but that may be all you need to decide if you relate to them and them to you. Do their explanations make sense and feel genuine?”

Even if a doctor is terrific, he or she may not be right for you. If their style is to be abrupt and you prefer someone a bit more nurturing, then it may not be the best connection. You really want someone you can communicate openly with, about some of the most intimate topics in your life, so keep looking until you find a connection that encourages open and frank discussion.

On a side note, says Dr. Rebecca, “Don’t discount a physician just because they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear. Listen to what they’re saying. Sometimes they’ll have an important warning for you, and you need to hear it.”

Two: Check out their ob/gyn credentials

Are they Board Certified and have they maintained that certification? In the US, you can check that your physician is certified on the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology website. Do they belong to national and local ob/gyn societies? “There are good medical school and residency programs all over the country,” Dr. Rebecca says, “but that not the only thing you should judge them on. You want a doctor who keeps up with current research and does her or his due diligence. You can also look for a practitioner who is a member of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) or who has taken their certified menopause practitioner exam."

(Here’s a handy list of definitions of credentials, from NAMS.)

Do they have a practice focus on women in midlife and menopause? Ob/gyns tend to “age into” a more menopause-focused practice, Dr. Rebecca says. “As ob/gyns start in practice, they tend to do a lot of obstetrics, as that is how women often come into our care. As we age and our patients age with us, we do more and more midlife and menopause care.” That’s not to say that age (or lack of) is an indicator of ability (or lack of), of course.

Three: ask about menopause treatment options

Menopause has a whole range of symptoms and challenges, and a single therapy may not entirely resolve all the discomforts. You want a doc with both a broad range of information and also an open mind.

“Ask them how they evaluate alternative and complementary therapies and how you should navigate them. Most MD practitioners will not prescribe them, but they should be familiar and able to talk about safe and unsafe options. They should definitely know about possible interactions. If you’re already taking any alternative therapies, never hide them, as they impact your traditional medical care. Even if you’re taking ‘natural’ and ‘harmless’ herbs, they can interact with medications.”

Plus, if you don’t feel you can openly discuss all your treatments with your doctor, that may be a red flag that this isn’t the doctor for you.

Ask the doc about his or her approach to hormone therapy (HRT) and the alternatives. There’s a lot of confusion among women – and some among docs –  about the efficacy and safety of hormones. Understand this doctor’s position and how they use hormone therapies, says Dr. Rebecca. “Do they use hormones in everyone? In no one? Do they customize treatment to each individual patient?”

Four: assess the doctor’s office

“How do they run their group?” Dr. Rebecca asks. “Will you be seen mostly by the same doctor? If you need a quick appointment, how easy is it to get in? What call system do they have for emergencies? Do they have mid-level providers like nurse practitioners, midwives, or Physician Assistants who help get urgent visits in, and if so, how are they supervised?” You want a clinic or office that is sufficiently staffed, organized, and clean, so don’t be afraid to extend a few questions to the nurses or other staff.

Finally, Dr. Rebecca says, “Approach your visit with an open mind. Just as you don’t feel happy if you’re not heard by your doctor or other practitioner, we also get frustrated when a patient comes in not able to hear what we have to say. In the end, if it’s not a good match, we won’t be hurt if you go elsewhere.”

“But,” Dr. Rebecca adds, “be introspective. Think about what these practitioners are telling you, even if they are telling you something you don’t want to hear. You can always find someone who will give you what you want without question, but please listen to those who question or warn you – they may be providing important, even life-saving information.”

Tell us about your awesome ob/gyn! How did you find him, how long have you been seeing her, what makes them so amazing? Please feel free to comment here, or start a thread in our community forums. You can also reach out to us on genneve’s public Facebook page or in our closed Facebook group.

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Shannon Perry

Shannon is a celebrated author and global educator. Whether she’s interviewing a physician or producing a podcast, her appetite for research, facts, and truth culminates in credible health education and programming that women can rely on. An avid runner, cyclist, and climber, Shannon knows a thing or two about thriving in midlife and lives in Seattle with her cat, dog and boyfriend.

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