What Is an OB/GYN?

This type of doctor specializes in women's health

Pregnant woman at doctor's office.
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OB/GYN is the abbreviation for an obstetrician-gynecologist. An OB/GYN has many jobs. What you see an OB/GYN for depends on where you are in your life. For the majority of your life, you will need the services of a gynecologist. An obstetrician's services are only needed when you are pregnant. Some doctors are both obstetrician-gynecologists. Some are just gynecologists, specializing in certain aspects of reproductive diseases.

Put simply, the obstetrician-gynecologist is concerned primarily with the care and treatment of the female reproductive organs and all aspects of childbirth, including delivery.

The primary responsibility of an OB/GYN has is helping women have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy newborns. Some OB/GYNs may focus more on obstetrics, choosing not to see older patients past their reproductive years, while others may tend to women who have had children and menopausal women. There are also subspecialties of obstetrics and gynecology, including reproductive health and infertility issues, and gynecological oncology.

What Services Does an OB/GYN Offer?

One part of an OB/GYN's job is to screen for certain diseases including cancers of the breasts, cervix, uterus and vagina. During your gynecological appointment, your doctor will most likely perform a manual breast exam as well as a Pap smear. These tests check for breast and cervical cancer, respectively.

Another important part of an OB/GYN's job is to diagnose and treat female reproductive health issues including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), menstrual issues, diseases of the breasts, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. An OB/GYN can also diagnose fertility problems, premenstrual syndrome, and menopause-related issues.

If you are sexually active, your OB/GYN can test for STDs in addition to doing a Pap smear. Your doctor may swab for STDs or have your blood or urine tested. The testing method they choose depends on which infections they are testing for. They can also look for signs of infections like discharge and inflammation as well as herpes or genital warts.

An OB/GYN can perform surgical procedures such as Cesarean sections and hysterectomies. She may also perform other procedures such as colposcopies, which remove abnormal cells from the cervix. For women who have reproductive health conditions like endometriosis or fibroids, an OB/GYN can perform laparoscopic procedures, or make a referral to a gynecological surgeon.

Training To Become an OB/GYN

To become an OB/GYN in the United States, you must go to medical school and receive a doctorate in medicine (MD) or osteopathic medicine (DO). To become board-certified, a four-year residency program must be completed after medical school. Some doctors choose to go on to a fellowship program to get further specialized training. Obstetrician-gynecologists may go on to fellowship training in family planning, reproductive endocrinology, infertility or pelvic surgery.

When Should I Start Seeing an OB/GYN?

Most women will likely see an OB/GYN before they turn 18. It’s especially important for women who are sexually active to visit an OB/GYN to be screened for cervical cancer and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). Women should visit their OB/GYN once a year for a full examination.

Building a relationship with an OB/GYN before pregnancy is ideal so that when you do become pregnant, you have a doctor who already knows you and your body, and can provide the best possible treatment. provide the best possible treatment.

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