An OBGYN, short for obstetrician-gynecologist, is a doctor who specializes in women’s health and the female body. They provide care for all women at any stage of life, including menstruation, childbirth, and menopause. OBGYNs offer wide ranges of general health services, but their expertise is in the female reproductive system, reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth.
The Importance of an OBGYN
OBGYNs have an educational background in both obstetrics and gynecology. They completed their bachelor’s degree and four years of medical school training to become an OBGYN. They then completed four years of graduate-level education as a resident on obstetrics and gynecology under the supervision of an attending doctor in a medical facility.
Obstetrics is the study of medical and surgical care before, during, and after a woman has given birth. The focus of obstetrics is to care for and maintain a woman’s health during maternity, including:
- Labor and Delivery
Gynecology is the study of women’s bodies and their reproductive health. Gynecologists and OBGYNs are trained to diagnose, treat, and care for women’s reproductive systems, including their:
- and Fallopian Tubes
Gynecologists are specially trained surgeons. Examples of surgeries Gynecologists do are hysterectomies, oophorectomies, laparoscopies, hysteroscopies, Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedures (LEEP), and colposcopies.
Gynecology covers women’s health from puberty through the rest of a woman’s adult life. A gynecologist is a doctor who will care for a woman most of her adult life, and an obstetrician will care for her during maternity. An OBGYN can do both!
Most OBGYNs are generalists, but some choose specialties. These specialties usually require an additional three years of training after finishing residency. These specialties may include:
- Maternal-fetal Medicine: Special care for high-risk pregnancies and related medical conditions, including chronic or gestational high blood pressure, blood-clotting disorders, gestational diabetes, and premature labor.
- Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility: Addressing issues related to infertility, glands, and hormones of the endocrine system. They perform assisted reproductive procedures, including in vitro fertilization, gamete intrafallopian transfer, zygote intrafallopian transfer, and embryo transfer.
- Gynecologic Oncology: Specialty in diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive system, including cancers of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and vulva.
- Female Pelvic Medicine and Reproductive Surgery: Focused on treating women with disorders of the muscle and connective tissue on the pelvic floor, such as urinary or fecal incontinence, vaginal or urinary tract infections, overactive bladder, bladder pain, and pelvic organ prolapse.
When to See an OBGYN
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you will want to set up an appointment with an OBGYN. If you aren’t in either of those categories, you can still see an OBGYN! What you visit them for may depend on your age, health, and reproductive goals, but some common reasons women will see an OBGYN can include:
- Pelvic pain
- Irregular periods
- Abnormal bleeding
- Genital itching or pain
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) or vaginal infections
- PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Hormonal disorders
- Breast disorders or concerns
Another reason you would see an OBGYN is if you were looking to get your regular preventative tests and screenings done, including:
- Pelvic exams
- Clinical breast exams
- Pap smears
- Cancer screenings
Preventative care is extremely important for women to keep up with, including annual checkups. This helps an OBGYN ensure that you are healthy overall and won’t have any concerns or unknowns if you have a pregnancy.
Changes in Your Reproductive Cycle
You should always schedule an appointment with your OBGYN if you have any changes that occur in your reproductive cycle. Some of these changes will be planned or expected, such as:
- Your first menstrual cycle
Some changes may be abnormal and unexpected, such as:
- Changes in your menstrual cycle (i.e. dramatic increase in volume or frequency of menstrual bleeding)
- Unusual cramping
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful urination
Choosing an OBGYN
Many women don’t know where to start when choosing an OBGYN. It can be a little intimidating because your OBGYN is someone you want to feel comfortable talking to about sensitive things relating to your body and who you would be comfortable having to examine you. Here are some tips we have to choose your OBGYN:
- Ask for recommendations from your trusted family and friends: Chances are high that if your close family or friends have a recommended OBGYN, you will probably also feel comfortable with their OBGYN. Listen to why they recommend their OBGYN, and if it feels like they might be a good fit for you, then move on to tip #2.
- Figure out which OBGYNs are in your insurance network: Choose an in-network OBGYN if possible, because more of their services will be covered by your insurance.
- Look into the OBGYN’s history, location, and specialty: Are they practicing at a location near your home? Are they specialized in what you may need help with? Have they been practicing medicine for very long?
- Take a look at reviews: Reviews from past patients can tell you a lot about an OBGYN and whether or not they would be a good fit for you.
- Know that you aren’t “locked-in” to your decision: You can change your OBGYN at any time. You are in full control of your healthcare decisions and who cares for you. If you find you aren’t comfortable with an OBGYN, try a new one. You want to have the best possible relationship with your OBGYN so they can help and support you better.
When it comes to choosing an OBGYN, always trust your instincts!
Are you currently looking for a new OBGYN you can trust and that can care for your needs and listen to your concerns? Schedule an appointment with us and we’ll match you with the OBGYN we think can best fit your needs.