Knowing whether your gynecologist is awesome or average is hard when you have a sample size of one. So we asked Glamour contributor Katharine O'Connell White, M.D., chief of the division of general obstetrics and gynecology at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, how to tell whether you're getting the treatment you deserve. Is your gyno great? Here are four welcome signs:
1) She chats with you upon entering.
"Taking off your clothes is like removing your armor—it makes you feel more vulnerable," says Dr. White. "It's really hard to open up about something that's worrying you when you're sitting in a flimsy gown, so I like to check in with patients before they get undressed." That's not standard procedure in many practices, where in an effort to save time, nurses have women change while they're waiting for the doctor. If you're the completely un-self-conscious type, by all means, go straight for the gown.
2) She checks on your overall health, not just your period.
Your ob-gyn should ask questions like: Have there been any changes in your medical history in the past year—particularly a diagnosis of high blood pressure, migraines, or blood clots? Do you smoke, even sometimes? (All these factors affect which type of birth control you can use). Are you taking anything for depression? (Some medications can kill your libido). "Specialists tend to get tunnel vision around their area of expertise, but if you have medical conditions you're being treated for by another doctor, your ob-gyn needs to know," says Dr. White. "It's all connected!"
3) She broaches the awkward topics for you.
"Your ob-gyn should say, 'Are you having any problems with sex—any pain or anything else you want to talk about?' " says Dr. White. That opens the door for women who are too shy to bring such issues up on their own. A great doctor will also inquire about whether you feel safe in your relationship (to be sure there's no physical or emotional abuse) and isn't afraid to press for more details when necessary in an effort to help, she says. If a patient answers with a vague "It's fine" to any question, that's a potential red flag for Dr. White.
4) She asks about pregnancy plans.
"I always start with 'Are you even thinking about getting pregnant anytime soon?'" says Dr. White. "If you hope a baby is on the horizon for you and would like to start planning, your ob-gyn can help make sure you're healthy and prescribe prenatal vitamins before you start trying."