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.

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, vagina, and surrounding area. 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 problemspremenstrual 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.

The primary responsibility of an OB/GYN has is helping women have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy newborns. The majority of obstetrician-gynecologists spend most of their time monitoring pregnant women and delivering their newborns.

Some OB/GYNs may focus more on obstetrics, choosing not see patients past their reproductive prime.

An OB/GYN can perform surgical procedures such as C-sections and hysterectomies. They may also perform other procedures such as colposcopy and the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), which removes abnormal cells from the cervix. For people who have a reproductive health condition like endometriosis or fibroids, an OB/GYN can perform laparoscopic procedures, or they may refer you to a gynecologic surgeon.

Training To Become an OB/GYN

To become an OB/GYN, 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?

Every woman should make an appointment with their OB/GYN yearly, beginning at the age of 21, or within three years of sexual intercourse if under the age 21.

If you are sexually active with multiple partners you may want to visit your doctor more frequently for STD screening. Using protection will decrease your chances of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease.

It's extremely important to return for annual pap smears and pelvic exams as per the recommendations your OB/GYN gives you. Also, consult your OB/GYN anytime you experience anything that is not normal for you, or if have any questions about your reproductive health.

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