ob/gyn specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the female
reproductive system: the uterus, ovaries, cervix and vagina. The
ob/gyn also cares for a woman’s general healthcare, including
breasts, urinary tract, the pelvic area and sexual function. The
first step to optimal gynecological health is at the ob/gyn’s
office. After you become sexually active, or after you turn 18,
you should visit the ob/gyn once a year for an “annual visit.” Some
women become so accustomed to regular visits to the ob/gyn that
they even use their ob/gyn as a primary care provider to turn to
for all of their health concerns.
The most important thing an ob/gyn can do for you if you’re
a healthy woman is to provide preventive healthcare. He or she
will be able to administer routine exams like the clinical
breast exam, pelvic
exam and Pap test in
order to keep up-to-date with your health. By becoming familiar
with your body and your test results on a regular basis, your doctor
will be able to notice any changes in your gynecological or general
Check out the section on choosing
a provider for tips on how to find the ob/gyn that’s
right for you. If you’re concerned about the gender of
your ob/gyn, make sure you let the administrative office know
when you are making an appointment. Remember that female and
male ob/gyns are equally qualified to treat you. Most male and
female ob/gyns will bring a female nurse into the exam room.
Look for the letters FACOG after your ob/gyn’s name. These
letters mean that he or she is a fellow of the American College
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and is board-certified.
ACOG is a national group of ob/gyns that supports women’s
healthcare issues and offers resources to keep members up-to-date
on the latest advancements in women’s healthcare.
At your “well-woman visit,” or your annual visit,
your ob/gyn will perform at least a basic gynecologic exam. This
is the key to preventive care, including specific exams, tests
and a discussion of your individual concerns. Your ob/gyn will
talk to you about your general health history, menstrual history,
childbearing history, behavior and lifestyle, sexual habits, and
any other particular concerns. Be sure you know your menstrual
schedule, specifically the date of your last menstrual period when
you come to your office visit. This is useful information that
may help your ob/gyn understand the results of your exam better.
Your ob/gyn will perform a physical exam including a clinical breast
exam, pelvic exam and a Pap test. Then, your ob/gyn will talk candidly
with you about your concerns, plans, and risks. The annual visit
is designed to detect any signs of health problems in early age,
to look for particular risks to your health, to perform all routine
exams and tests, and to provide lifestyle changing options that
may lower potential health risks, if necessary.