Gynecologists are doctors who specialize in women's health, with a focus on the female reproductive system. They deal with a wide range of issues, including obstetrics, or pregnancy and childbirth, menstruation and fertility issues, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), hormone disorders, and others.
A gynecologist treats patients with female reproductive organs, whether or not they identify as women. An obstetrician is a kind of gynecologist who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth.
To become a gynecologist, a person must train first as a doctor for 4 years, then specialize for another 4 years in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Passing a further examination will enable them to be certified and registered.
When to see one
A visit to the gynecologist is recommended for annual screening and any time a woman has concerns about symptoms such as pelvic, vulvar, and vaginal pain or abnormal bleeding from the uterus.
Conditions commonly treated by gynecologists include:
Issues relating to pregnancy, fertility, menstruation, and menopause
Family planning, including contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination
Problems with tissues that support the pelvic organs, including ligaments and muscles
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Urinary and fecal incontinence
Benign conditions of the reproductive tract, for example, ovarian cysts, fibroids, breast disorders, vulvar and vaginal ulcers, and other non-cancerous changes
Premalignant conditions, such as endometrial hyperplasia, and cervical dysplasia
Cancers of the reproductive tract and the breasts, and pregnancy-related tumors
Congenital abnormalities of the female reproductive tract
Emergency care relating to gynecology
Endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects the reproductive system
Pelvic inflammatory diseases, including abscesses
Sexuality, including health issues relating to same-sex and bisexual relationships
They may also treat:
Psychiatric conditions such as depression and personality disorders
Thyroid disorders and other hormonal issues
Domestic violence and sexual assault
Preventive medicine may include lifestyle advice about issues such as smoking cessation and weight loss.
What to expect
What happens at the gynecologist's depends on the reason for the visit and the individual's situation.
If it is a young woman's first visit, she may just have a chat with the doctor, get some general health information, and find out what to expect in the future.
At any visit with the gynecologist, it is worth remembering:
An honest account of your health concerns and lifestyle gives the gynecologist a better idea of your situation and enables them to help you more.
A gynecological examination, including a pap smear, may be uncomfortable, but it is not usually painful.
It is not necessary to wax or shave before the visit.
Bodily odor is natural. If it indicates a problem, the gynecologist needs to know.
If you have a period when the appointment is scheduled, you can still go ahead with the visit, but it may be better to postpone, unless you have symptoms that need urgent attention.
It is best to avoid sexual activity, using a vaginal douche, or using tampons for 2 days before a gynecological examination.
A patient can ask to have someone with them at the visit, either in the room or outside the door.