Women’s Health FAQ

What is the difference between a gynecologist and an obstetrician?

Answer:  Many people think OB/GYN and gynecology are the same thing. This is not true! An OB/GYN encompasses two specialties – obstetrics and gynecology – while gynecologists specialize in gynecology only. While a physician can have both medical specializations, there are differences between the two.

A woman’s needs change throughout life, and it’s important to know who you need to see for specific conditions and issues.

OBSTETRICS

An obstetrician specializes in obstetrics, which deals with all aspects of pregnancy, from prenatal care to post-natal care. An obstetrician delivers babies, whereas a gynecologist does not. An obstetrician can also provide therapies to help you get pregnant, such as fertility treatments. If you deliver a premature baby, an obstetrician can also provide guidance in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). An obstetrician will ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and that you deliver a healthy baby.

Obstetricians are also trained to handle pregnancy complications, such as:

  • Ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus grows outside of the uterus
  • Signs of fetal distress, in which the fetus is not doing well for various reasons
  • Placenta issues
  • Preeclampsia
  • Delivery through Cesarean section

An obstetrician can also help you after you have delivered your baby and are dealing with issues such as postpartum depression.

GYNECOLOGY

A gynecologist specializes in caring for the reproductive health of a woman from the time she gets her first period all the way to post-menopause.

Any conditions that affect the reproductive system, such as those with the cervix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or vagina, are diagnosed and treated by a gynecologist. Gynecologists also perform recommended screenings such as breast exams, pap smears, and pelvic exams. They also perform hysterectomies and tubal ligations.

Gynecologists can also provide advice on sexual matters, such as responsible sexual practices, contraceptives, and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. All in all, if it’s a non-pregnancy issue that is related to female reproductive health, a gynecologist can take care of it.

A gynecologist may diagnose and treat issues, such as:

  • Irregular menstruation
  • Vaginal infections
  • Conditions that cause pain during sex
  • Cancers of the reproductive system
  • Prolapse of pelvic organs
  • Endometriosis
  • Cervical and vaginal polyps
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids

Many physicians specialize in both obstetrics and gynecology to provide comprehensive care to patients. This way, they can address the full spectrum of their patients’ healthcare needs. These physicians are called OB/GYNs.

When should my daughter see a gynecologist?

Answer: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls first see a gynecologist when they’re between the ages of 13 and 15. Most girls will not need a pelvic exam during this first visit, though. Many gynecologists will just do a regular health exam and talk to a girl about her development.

This is a great way for your daughter to develop a relationship with her gynecologist, so that she is comfortable sharing personal information in the future.

While all teenage girls should see a gynecologist, it is especially important if your daughter has been sexually active (or is planning to be) or has problems with her period.

What does a gynecological exam include?

Answer: Whatever your age, an annual GYN exam includes:

  • An assessment of your current health status
  • A breast exam to check for lumps, skin changes, or nipple discharge
  • A pelvic exam to check your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum, and pelvis, including your ovaries, for masses, growths or other abnormalities
  • A Pap test to screen for cervical cancer

Your annual wellness exam may also include information on which vaccinations are recommended based on your age and risks.  These can include the flu shot, Tdap, and human papilloma virus (HPV).

Your doctor may also recommend you for your regular mammogram as part of your annual GYN exam.

Annual testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea is recommended for sexually active adolescents and young women up to age 25.  Routine HIV testing is recommended for all sexually active women beginning at age 19 until 64.

Do gynecologists perform surgery?

Answer:

What are the most common gynecological procedures?

Answer:  

  • Adhesiolysis. This is also called lysis of adhesions.
  • Cervical (Cone) Biopsy.
  • Colporrhaphy.
  • Colposcopy.
  • Dilation and Curettage (D&C).
  • Endometrial Ablation.
  • Endometrial or Uterine Biopsy.
  • Fluid-Contrast Ultrasound (FCUS)