Being a woman isn’t easy, especially when it comes to understanding our reproductive system. The female reproductive system is a complex yet crucial aspect of our life, and having an instruction manual to understand it would make it a little less challenging. An instruction manual doesn’t exist but, thankfully, that’s where an OB/GYN comes in.
In a way, an OB/GYN, or obstetrician-gynecologist, acts as our personal guide through womanhood. He or she helps us understand what is going on inside our reproductive system and how that affects every part of our body—from our cognition to our skin health to our emotional state. An OB/GYN is a provider who specializes in delivering babies and the female reproductive system. However, they are so much more than that. From the early teen years all the way through late adulthood, having an OB/GYN is important to your overall health.
When to see an OB/GYN as a teenager
Transitioning from a pediatrician or family practice provider to a gynecologist can be overwhelming. The ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) recommends girls visit a gynecologist for the first time between the ages of 13 and 15. While this is a big step for teenagers, having a provider to talk to about puberty, menstruation and sexuality—and any issues that may arise as a result of them—is important. Gynecologists can also administer important health screenings for women, starting in the teen years. These screenings include pap smears, pelvic exams and clinical breast exams to check for abnormalities that could turn into significant health concerns. Most importantly, teenagers should create a relationship with a gynecologist whom they trust and feel comfortable talking to about female health.
When to see an OB/GYN as a young adult
Establishing a relationship with an OB/GYN as a young female doesn’t just mean finding a provider when it’s time to have a baby. An OB/GYN can act as a primary physician in many ways, including full body exams, routine blood tests and referrals when issues arise. OB/GYNs continue health screenings for women throughout their reproductive years by providing pap smears, pelvic exams and breast exams. In addition, they begin to monitor health concerns that arise as we age like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Of course, obstetrics is one aspect that these providers specialize in. Women in their 20s and 30s should have an OB/GYN before a pregnancy occurs as well as throughout the pregnancy. This is crucial to the health of both the mother and baby. Having an OB/GYN whom you trust with the growth and delivery of your baby is one of the most important decisions a new mother has to make.
When to see an OB/GYN as an older woman
Just because childbearing years are over doesn’t mean a relationship with an OB/GYN needs to end. In fact, having a long-standing relationship with a provider as you age can be extremely beneficial. A provider who knows your health history can help you even more as you experience post-menopausal changes. And these changes can be just as significant, if not more significant, than the changes a teenager experiences. An OB/GYN can even assist in the removal of reproductive organs, if necessary. In addition, an OB/GYN will perform or refer you to specialists for mammograms, colonoscopies, bone density screens and other tests, like blood glucose and lipid panels.
Finding the right OB/GYN is important, but it doesn’t have to be hard. That’s where MyHealthKC Find A Doctor Tool comes in. Take an online survey to be matched with a provider who is best for you, then read bios and reviews to learn more about them. Schedule an appointment and you’ll be on your way to Whole Health with AdventHealth.