Regardless of your pregnancy plans, you must have heard about this medical specialty. Therefore, questions like “what’s an OBGYN doctor?” or “what does an OBGYN do?” might have crossed your mind. Continue reading this article to learn the basics of an OBGYN doctor.
What’s an OBGYN Doctor?
So, what’s an OBGYN doctor’s job? An OBGYN, also known as a gynecologist, is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health. While obstetricians deliver babies and care for women during pregnancy, an OBGYN can do all these things and also deal with menopause, treat infections, perform surgery for pelvic organ prolapse or urinary tract problems, and screen for cancer.
As gynecologists treat sensitive and personal health issues, getting an OBGYN examination could be troubling for some women. Therefore, we will offer you some tips on finding a doctor you feel comfortable with in order to smooth your future OBGYN appointment.
Finding the Right OBGYN
There are some things to consider prior to choosing an OBGYN. First, get a referral from a family member, friend, or your primary care provider. Word of mouth based on your friend’s first hand experience with a doctor and the staff is invaluable. In advance, decide what are the most important attributes you’re looking for in your future doctor. Are you looking for a newly trained doctor with the most up-to-date medical knowledge or one who has been in practice for years and has lots of practical experience? Do you want a doctor who takes time to listen to you or one who addresses your issue promptly and gets you on your way? Does it matter to you whether your doctor is a male or a female? Are you looking to see the same doctor and get to know him over the years like a solo-practice doctor, or would you rather see a new doctor each time and get a different opinion by establishing care with a larger group practice?
Before making a decision, do your own research including word of mouth, online reviews and your doctor’s professional sites (LinkedIn, Doximity, Healthgrades). If you still have questions, call the OBGYN doctor’s office and ask the staff questions about:
- Their medical experience
- Attitude about reproductive issues
- Office hours
- Health insurance acceptance
Although some women might look for an OBGYN examination on the week when pregnancy symptoms start, it is not when annual appointments should begin. According to the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), girls should visit their OBGYN for the first time when they become sexually active or when they are 13 to 15 years old. When it comes to teens, their first visit will just include a talk with the doctor. As sexual activity could irritate your vagina’s tissue and affect your Pap test results, avoid having sex within 24 hours of your OBGYN appointment.
Just like any other medical appointment, yours will start with a general health check. You are typically asked to fill out an intake form, sharing your medical history with your doctor. Commonly, your weight and blood pressure will be taken, and you will have blood and urine tests done as well. To continue with the physical exam, the nurse will take you to the exam room and ask you to undress. A gown and a sheet will be given to you too.
Before performing the pelvic exam, your OBGYN will go over the information on your intake form and ask you additional questions about your personal and family health history. It is possible that a nurse or another health professional stays in the room with you and the OBGYN for the pelvic exam. First, the doctor will examine the outside of your vagina (the vulva area and vaginal opening) for abnormalities. Then, your doctor will continue with the examination of your reproductive organs from the inside. To do so, your OBGYN will use a speculum to hold your vagina open to view the inside of your vagina and cervix while you keep your knees bent and feet in stirrups. Although you will feel some pressure during the exam, it should not be painful. It is important that you communicate to your OBGYN if you’re experiencing any pain during the exam so your OBGYN can adjust the exam accordingly including using the smallest possible speculum that would allow for an optimal inspection of your internal female organs.
In women over age 21, a Pap test is commonly done during the pelvic exam. This test requires gently scraping a sample of cells from your cervix using a tiny brush. The sample will be sent to a lab and checked for human papillomavirus (which causes cervical cancer) and other abnormalities. Can a gynecologist test for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) during your pelvic exam? Absolutely. Your doctor can both check blood tests (HIV, hepatitis B/C, and syphilis) and take a swab during your pelvic exam (chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomonas).
Moreover, your OBGYN will also perform an internal bimanual exam to feel your cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. To do so, your doctor will place one or two gloved fingers in your vagina while placing the other hand on top of the lower part of your abdomen. Your OBGYN will let you know If it is needed to do a rectal exam where your doctor would place a gloved finger in your rectum to check for masses. In order to check for any lumps or other abnormalities, your OBGYN will do a breast exam too.
Do not wait for the signs that labor is nearing to ask questions to your doctor. Regardless of how embarrassing or personal your questions about reproductive health might seem; you can be sure that they will not surprise your OBGYN. On the other hand, your OBGYN will ask you lots of questions too. For instance, some of them will include:
- Amount of bleeding and severity of your cramping with your periods
- Sexual issues or problems including any pain during intercourse
- Past history of STDs
- Vaginal discharge
- Birth control methods
- Number of sexual partners
Keep in mind that your OBGYN is essential for your reproductive health. Therefore, make sure to make an annual appointment and let your doctor know about any issues.