An OB/GYN is a doctor who specializes in women’s health, specifically obstetrics (pregnancy) and gynecology (female reproductive health). MediFind can help you find a top OB/GYN near you who is an expert in your specific health condition.
An OB/GYN (also abbreviated OB/GYN or OB-GYN) is actually a combination of two medical specialties: obstetrics (the “OB”) and gynecology (the “GYN”). What’s the difference between obstetrics and gynecology?
An OB/GYN is trained in both of these fields.
An OB/GYN is a type of gynecologist with additional training. OB/GYN is actually a combination of two fields: obstetrics (a surgical specialty primarily focused on childbirth) and gynecology (the study of the female reproductive system). An OB/GYN specializes in both obstetrics and gynecology. It’s possible for a doctor to be a gynecologist (GYN), and not an obstetrician (OB). However, all obstetricians are also gynecologists (OB/GYNs).
A gynecologist (also commonly spelled gynaecologist, or abbreviated as “GYN”) is a doctor who specializes in health and diseases specific to patients with female reproductive organs. Many, but not all, gynecologists are also obstetricians, meaning that they also specialize in a surgical field of healthcare primarily related to childbirth.
Gynecologists work with a wide range of issues, including menstruation, fertility, pregnancy and childbirth, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and hormonal disorders.
Many gynecologists also provide primary care, meaning that they offer general healthcare and preventative medicine for their patients, and are able to refer patients to other doctors for additional care when necessary.
An OB/GYN (also abbreviated OB/GYN or OB-GYN) is a gynecologist that has additional training in obstetrics, which is a surgical field primarily related to childbirth.
OB/GYNs manage a wide range of issues, including menstruation, fertility, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and hormonal disorders. Among other procedures, OB/GYNs offer pelvic exams, blood work, and ultrasounds.
They also specialize in pregnancy and childbirth, and are licensed to perform surgeries including:
Many OB/GYNs also provide primary care, meaning that they offer general healthcare and preventative medicine for their patients, and are able to refer patients to other doctors for additional care when necessary. Some women see their OB/GYN as their primary care physician.
OB/GYNs are licensed to perform surgeries related to female reproductive organs, including:
It’s recommended that women see a gynecologist or OB/GYN for annual screening, as well as any time symptoms such as pelvic, vulvar, and vaginal pain, or abnormal bleeding from the uterus arise.
Women and girls of any age can see a gynecologist or OB/GYN. In the United States, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends starting to visit a gynecologist between ages 13-15 years.
In addition, individuals with female reproductive organs, regardless of gender identity or sexual preference, can see an OB/GYN. In fact, in 2011, ACOG published guidelines to encourage greater inclusivity for sexual and gender minority (SGM) people, which include but are not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people.
You may see an OB/GYN for reasons including:
Conditions commonly treated by gynecologists and OB/GYNs include:
OB/GYNs treat many health conditions. If you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, you should usually see an OB/GYN, since they have additional training related to pregnancy and delivery beyond that of a gynecologist. You should make sure that the doctor is board-certified, meaning that they have the necessary training and credentials for your care.
You may also wish to confirm which hospital your OB/GYN is affiliated with, since this will be the hospital at which you deliver. When researching hospitals, it’s important to look at hospital quality, as well as distance from your home, since you will be back-and-forth for multiple visits, including delivery.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you should ensure your OB/GYN has a lot of experience relevant to your specific situation.
You should also make sure you feel comfortable with your OB/GYN, since you will be sharing intimate parts of your body and sensitive details about your life with them. Some people prefer OB/GYNs of a specific gender, though this is purely personal preference.
And, of course, you should check with your insurance provider about whether your OB/GYN is in-network or not, since this can dramatically affect the costs of your healthcare.
Best OB/GYNs for bowel incontinence (fecal incontinence)
Best OB/GYNs for cervical dysplasia
Best OB/GYNs for chlamydia
Best OB/GYNs for ectopic pregnancy
Best OB/GYNs for endometriosis
Best OB/GYNs for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
Best OB/GYNs for hyperemesis gravidarum
Best OB/GYNs for infertility
Best OB/GYNs for ovarian cysts
Best OB/GYNs for preeclampsia
Best OB/GYNs for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Best OB/GYNs for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Best OB/GYNs for urinary incontinence
Best OB/GYNs for urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Best OB/GYNs for uterine fibroids
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it is recommended that people start seeing a gynecologist between ages 13-15, or when they first become sexually active, whichever is sooner. The average age of menstruation beginning is 12 years and 9 months in the United States, and this often marks a natural point to begin seeing a gynecologist.
As with nearly all doctor’s visits, a gynecologist will ask about your medical history and any new symptoms. This is usually followed by a physical examination.
If you are not sexually active, the doctor may not perform a pelvic exam, but this initial visit is still important since it can help establish a trusted and safe relationship with your doctor for years to come, and you can ask any questions you may have.
If you are sexually active (or if you’re not sexually active, but are age 21 or older), you will likely have a pelvic exam. A pelvic exam is a doctor’s examination of a person’s female reproductive organs, using both sight and touch. During the exam, the doctor will look at your vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries, and uterus. A doctor will use a combination of internal (inside your body) and external (outside your body) examination. A pelvic exam is not painful, and it only takes a few minutes. You may feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed, but remember that the doctor is simply doing their job and making sure you’re healthy. The doctor may also do a breast examination, looking for any lumps or other potential abnormalities.
You may also have a pap test (also called a pap smear), which is a procedure that screens for cervical cancer. To do this test, the doctor will insert a tool called a speculum into the vagina. This allows them to take another instrument (which just looks like a tiny spatula) to gather some cells from your cervix. These cells are later sent to a lab, where they are screened for cervical cancer and some STIs. This procedure only takes a few seconds, and is generally not painful.
Gynecologists also perform routine STI testing, and they may ask you if you’d like to be screened for different STIs.
Individuals with male reproductive organs generally see a urologist. While urologists see both men and women, they also have training specific to the male reproductive organs and male fertility.
With the rapid increase in medical costs, it’s important to know whether your doctor accepts your medical insurance, including private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. You can choose to be treated by a doctor that doesn’t accept your insurance, but you should understand how much you would have to pay out of your own pocket first. We always recommend calling the doctor’s office directly to confirm your specific details.
If you have a rare health condition or complication, then you are less likely to have an expert nearby even if you live in a large metropolitan area. The decision to travel to see an expert is not easy and it can be an additional burden on an already difficult situation. However, if you don’t have an expert in your particular condition nearby, then you should consider traveling to see an expert to make sure you are getting the best treatment.
You may be surprised to learn that experts can have different views on the best treatment path. When possible, you should always try to get a second opinion before making major treatment decisions. Ideally, you want to get a second opinion from an expert who can give you a different point-of-view, so you can make the choice that best reflects your needs.