The following content is created in partnership with Virginia Hospital Center. It does not reflect the work or opinions of the NBC Washington editorial staff. Click here to learn more about Virginia Hospital Center.

When a woman finds a gynecologist she trusts, the relationship can last a lifetime. Once a trusting relationship is formed, it’s not uncommon for that provider to support a woman throughout adulthood, pregnancy, parenthood, menopause, and even care for her daughters.

Maintaining a long-term relationship with your gynecology provider isn’t just convenient; it allows more open and positive care experiences. It’s even associated with superior health outcomes.

But how do you find the right provider for that lasting relationship? Here are three things to consider when looking for a long-term gynecology provider.

They provide expertise on the life moments that matter most

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that adolescents start visiting a gynecologist when they’re between 13- and 15-years-old. Think of all the changes a woman will experience from that point onward. From menstruation, sexuality, and contraception, to family planning and menopause, these are all tremendous changes in a woman’s life that require the support of someone who understands your individual preferences and concerns.

While each of these life moments are unique to each individual woman, gynecologists provide an expert perspective as they have counseled thousands of women through similar situations. They don’t shy away from topics and questions that might seem “silly” or “awkward”—in fact, they have likely faced that same concern from patients a number of times before, and can provide the trusting, non-judgmental expert guidance you’re looking for.

You’re comfortable sharing your personal health goals, whether or not they include children

Whether you’re happily single, dating, becoming serious with a partner, or enjoying the freedom that comes when the kids go off to college, a gynecologist can help you manage your cycle and fertility in a way that gives you the control and flexibility you need—whatever your personal goals may be.

And if you decide it’s time to start a family, your gynecologist will be ready to help you prepare for good health in pregnancy. Your doctor can check to make sure you’re in optimal health to get pregnant and help you identify and overcome any barriers that might stand in the way of a healthy pregnancy. During pregnancy, regular checkups with an OB/GYN ensure that the baby is developing normally, allowing them to detect problems in a timely manner. If specialized support is needed from a fertility specialist or Maternal-Fetal-Medicine provider, your OB/GYN will collaborate with these specialists and continue to serve as your “medical home” for pregnancy.

They put you in the driver’s seat for your health

There are an endless number of sources and opinions to account for when it comes to women’s health and family planning. Gynecologists are your number one personal health advocate and advisor, and the best sources of the latest evidence-based information on a wide range of issues regarding your health, from menstrual cycle to STDs to birth control.

If you have a concern or question about how to best support your health, they’ll listen and help you diagnose the problem and get treatment. When you leave your gynecologist’s office feeling like you understand the status of your health and how to stay healthy, it’s a sign that your gynecologist is taking the time to put you in the driver’s seat for your personal health journey.

Virginia Hospital Center’s team of OB/GYN physicians provide personalized, patient-centered care to women throughout adolescence, pregnancy, parenthood, adulthood, mid-life, and menopause. Click here to learn more about their Arlington and Old Town locations.

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