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My OB/GYN and Me: When Should I See My OB/GYN?

My OB/GYN and Me: When Should I See My OB/GYN?

As a woman, you will experience a lot when it comes to your reproductive system—menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and, finally, menopause. That is a lot of change to your body for you to navigate. But luckily, you’re not alone in the journey.

While you may have a primary care physician—the medical provider you see for vaccinations in addition to well and sick care—your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) also is an important part of your health care team, whether or not you are pregnant.

OB/GYNs are specially trained to provide preventative care and treat medical and health issues for women. But, before we get too far into when to see your OB/GYN, ever wondered what the different is between an obstetrician and a gynecologist?

  • An obstetrician cares for women during pre -conception, pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery care.
  • A gynecologist cares for all health issues for women, with a focus on the female reproductive system, including the vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and breasts.

Whether you see an OB/GYN or simply a gynecologist, it is recommended you see them at least once per year for a preventive check-up and should start when you become sexually active or at by the age of 21.

Care Provided by an OB/GYN

Your OB/GYN can provide a wide-range of care, including:

  • Conducting a Pap smear and pelvic exam—to help prevent and/or detect cervical cancer.
  • Providing safe sex tips—discuss your birth control options and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Planning for pregnancy—prenatal care, infertility treatments, genetic testing and screening, breastfeeding advice and postpartum depression.
  • Addressing menstruation issues—help individuals work through painful, heavy or irregular periods. in addition to cramps, mood swings and other premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
  • Maintaining reproductive system health—help diagnose changes in vaginal discharge (which could be a symptom of infection), test for and treat STIs, check for urinary tract infections (if you are experiencing symptoms, such as burning during urination, cloudy/bloody urine, frequent urination or an intense urge to urinate) and address other issues such as endometriosis.
  • Diagnosing sexual intercourse issues—address pain or discomfort during sex.
  • Examining breasts—conduct a breast exam and to help schedule mammograms to maintain the health of your breasts.
  • Navigating menopause—help you work through perimenopause (before menopause) and menopause symptoms, including low sex drive (libido), irregular periods, vaginal dryness, bone loss, incontinence and hot flashes.

What to Expect During Your Visit

During your visit, your provider will ask questions about your medical history and sexual activity as well as examine your breasts, belly and pelvic region. Sure, it can be uncomfortable, but it is important to be open and honest with your health care provider, including:

  • If you are experiencing any pain during the exam
  • An accurate number of sexual partners
  • Any potential concerns for STIs
  • If you are having trouble with leaking or controlling urine
  • Low or no desire for sex
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Vaginal odor, discharge or discomfort
  • Rashes, bumps or lesions in your pelvic region
  • Plan or concerns about conceiving children

Remember: you don’t have to be pregnant to schedule a visit with a OB/GYN! Whether for an annual exam or to address a health care concern, your OB/GYN is an important player in your preventative care team. To find a physician, click here.