There is a lot of confusing information out there about the different kinds of women's health doctors—but, not enough on the distinctions and benefits that each can provide. Gynos and OBs and Midwives, oh my!!
Think of this as a guide for the different types of women's health doctors, to help you understand the important differences.
These doctors do all the fun (but important) things like Pap smears, breast exams, and pelvic exams. It’s recommended for women to see their gynecologist for a routine exam once a year, especially for women 21 and older. While gynecological services aren’t as necessary for younger women, it’s still good to get comfortable with going to the gyno and any questions you might have about important topics like sex and birth control that might be difficult to talk about. We know going to the gynecologist can be uncomfortable and might not be at the top of your to-do list, but it is essential for your reproductive health to make it a priority.
Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist
Gynecologists can also specialize in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. This specialty treats children, adolescents, and young women with concerns ranging from period problems to ovarian cysts, or just for regular check-ups.
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Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgeon
This specialty of gynecology treats women with noncancerous gynecologic conditions. Unlike a regular gynecologist, minimally invasive gynecologic surgeons are trained to perform surgery for things like ovarian cysts, ectopic pregnancy, and endometriosis. These doctors are also trained to treat things like irregular periods, heavy periods, and general pelvic pain.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term OB/GYN. While this might lead you to think Obstetricians and Gynecologists serve the same purpose, they’re actually completely different. An obstetrician is a doctor who treats pregnant women. OBs are trained to support women before conception, providing prenatal care, during pregnancy, delivering babies, and after pregnancy, providing postnatal care. Additionally, all OBs are qualified to be Gynecologists, but Gynecologists are not always qualified to be OBs.
Some OBs go further to specialize in perinatology, which handles high-risk pregnancies, or reproductive endocrinology, which focuses on infertility in both men and women. As one of the many subspecialties of OB/GYN, reproductive endocrinologists help patients dealing with reproductive disorders such as PCOS and Endometriosis, or who are going through IVF.
Urogynecologists treat urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and pelvic floor disorders. This means if you can’t laugh at a joke without peeing your pants a little bit, you might benefit from seeing a urogynecologist. This is most common in women who recently gave birth, but can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics.
This type of women’s health doctor specializes in treating women with cancer in their reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, cervix and vagina). Gynecologic oncologists must complete OB and gynecology residency and go on to train for this specialty after.
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs)
CNMs care for women before and after pregnancy. This type of doctor can deliver babies in the hospital or at home, and can provide family planning and birth control counseling.
Family Planning Specialist
Next, family planning specialists are meant to provide individual reproductive care for women. This includes women seeking things like birth control options, abortion care, emergency contraception, and guidance for starting a family. If you’re thinking it might be time to start a family, consider seeing a family planning specialist to be fully informed before starting your journey.
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Reproductive psychiatrists are a great resource for women who experience increased vulnerability or discomfort related to their reproductive cycles. So many women are negatively affected by their cycles, experiencing extreme PMS, depression, and mood swings. Additionally, this type of women’s health doctor helps women get through menopause, anxiety during pregnancy, and postpartum depression.
With all that’s happening in the world today, we can’t thank not only the women’s health doctors but doctors of all specialties on the front lines, putting themselves at risk every day to help others.