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The Gynecologist's Office
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An 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 health.

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.