Obstetricians/Gynecologists specialize in treatment of the female reproductive tract. Obstetricians care for women before, during and after pregnancy. The care of a Gynecologist is more general and includes disorders relating to menstruation, menopause and sexual dysfunction that may have a physical cause.
A Gynecologist offers advice on contraception and treats infertility, structural disorders including uterine fibroids, and cervical and ovarian cysts. Some symptoms suggestive of a gynecological disorder are vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding, low back pain and pelvic pressure, and irritation of the genitalia.
From the time a woman starts menstruating, she should see a Gynecologist every 1-3 years for a pelvic examination, a cervical smear (Pap test) and a breast exam. These tests are performed on a preventative basis because they can detect cancer of the cervix at an early stage.
Any woman who is planning to have a baby or who is already pregnant should consult an Obstetrician. The Obstetrician will guide her throughout her pregnancy, conducting routine prenatal exams to ensure both her health and that of the fetus. Many studies have shown that routine prenatal care begun in the first trimester decreases the chance of complications.