If you’re a woman, you probably know that you need to visit your gynecologist regularly. But have you ever wondered what a gynecologist does, exactly?
What is a gynecologist, and why is it important to visit one regularly? Keep reading to find out.
What does a gynecologist check for?
A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health. The majority of gynecologists are also obstetricians, who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth care. That’s why you’ll often see these physicians referred to as OB-GYNs.
Gynecologist check ups are important because they can detect the signs of many different conditions — such as STDs — in their early stages, allowing you to get treatment before the problem progresses and causes complications. But gynecologists don’t just treat STDs. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are certain things that you should always discuss with your gynecological doctor, including:
- Painful periods
- Vaginal odor or abnormal discharge
- Genital swelling, bumps, or growths
- Discomfort during or after sex
- Concerns about your sexual history
- Urinary or fecal leakage
- Low libido
Gynecologists diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that can affect your reproductive system. According to the National Association for Continence, these include:
- Fertility problems
- Menopause symptoms
- Polyps and fibroids
- Gynecologic disorders
- Gynecologic cancers
- Some causes of incontinence
When should I start going to the gynecologist?
The timing of your first gynecological check will depend on different factors. According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, a female between the ages of 11 to 18 can typically see a family physician or pediatrician, but there are certain instances in which a gynecological visit may be advised, including:
- Delayed puberty (when there’s no breast tissue development by the age of 14) or delayed first period (when there’s no menstrual cycle by the age of 16)
- Inability to wear a tampon comfortably
- Painful periods that interfere with your daily activities
- Concerns about sexual and reproductive health
- Contraceptive needs
According to University of Michigan Health, an initial visit between the ages of 13 to 15 can give girls an opportunity to address any concerns and doubts. In most cases, a pelvic exam isn’t necessary at this age. In addition to regular gynecological consultations, you should also start getting Pap smears once you turn 21 years old, regardless of your sexual history.
How often are you supposed to go to the gynecologist?
If you’re a female aged 21 to 29 years old, you should be seeing your gynecologist at least once a year. Your doctor could recommend additional visits if you require them. Once you’re 30 years old, you may switch to every-other-year gynecology consultations.
There are different places where you can find a gynecologist, including local clinics, hospitals, private practices, and even university health centers.
Regular gynecological check-ups are necessary to maintain your reproductive health. Another important step is to practice safe sex and get tested for STDs, which you can also do from the comfort of your own home thanks to at-home STD testing kits. You can learn more about at-home STD testing at STDWatch.com.
7 Things You Should Always Discuss with Your Gynecologist - hopkinsmedicine.org
WHAT IS A GYNECOLOGIST? - nafc.org
When should a female start seeing a gynecologist? - mayoclinichealthsystem.org
When and Why a Teen Should Start Seeing a Gynecologist - healthblog.uofmhealth.org