A gynecologist specializes in the female reproductive system. Gynecologists diagnose and treat many conditions and diseases. Most healthcare providers recommend seeing a gynecologist for the first time between 13 and 15.
A gynecologist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the female reproductive system. Your reproductive system is responsible for pregnancy and menstruation. It consists of the:
Gynecologists are involved in your reproductive health from puberty through menopause. A gynecologist can also treat certain conditions affecting your rectum, bladder and urethra depending on how it relates to your reproductive system. However, a urologist or colorectal surgeon may be the better option depending on your symptoms and diagnosis.
A gynecologist diagnoses and treats issues with female reproductive organs. They deal with all aspects of sexual health like preventive care, cancer screenings and physical exams. Some of the services and tests provided are:
Some gynecologists are also obstetricians (OBGYNs). Gynecologists can also specialize in certain aspects of gynecology like menopause, reconstructive surgery or reproductive oncology.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), people assigned female at birth (AFAB) should see a gynecologist for the first time when they’re between 13 and 15.
An obstetrician specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. They take care of pregnant people and deliver babies. An OBGYN is someone who’s both a gynecologist and an obstetrician. This means an OBGYN can take care of all aspects of your reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.
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A urogynecologist is a gynecologist who treats people with pelvic floor dysfunction. It’s a subspecialty of gynecology. Your pelvic floor consists of muscles, ligaments and connective tissues that support the organs in your pelvis. These organs are your bladder, vagina, uterus and rectum. Things like childbirth, menopause or muscle strain can weaken your pelvic floor and cause conditions like urinary incontinence, pelvic floor prolapse, chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) and more.
The biggest difference between a urologist and a urogynecologist is that a urogynecologist only treats women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB). They specialize in pelvic floor conditions involving the organs and muscles in the pelvis. A urologist specializes in urinary tract disorders in both women or people AFAB and men or people assigned male at birth (AMAB). This includes organs like your kidneys, bladder, testicles and urethra.
It depends on your symptoms. Your gynecologist or primary care provider may recommend seeing a urologist for bladder issues. Some gynecologists feel comfortable treating bladder issues like urinary incontinence (leaking urine) caused by a weak pelvic floor from childbirth or menopause.
To become a gynecologist, you get a bachelor’s degree and then pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) to get into a medical school. It usually takes about four years to earn a medical degree. You can either become a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).
From there, you spend about four years in a residency program. You’ll work in an office or hospital setting and get experience with preventative care, diagnostics and surgery.
If you want to specialize in a specific field of gynecology, you’ll need to complete a fellowship that may last another few years after residency.
After residency, you can become certified through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). This involves passing an oral and written exam. You can also get additional certifications in specialty areas like gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology or urogynecology. Some gynecologists are registered with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional organization.
Then, to practice as a gynecologist, you’ll need to get your medical license. The entire process can take about 15 years of schooling.
Gynecologists diagnose and treat conditions that affect your reproductive system.
Some of these conditions include:
Additionally, a gynecologist treats any lumps, pimples or boils in your vagina or on your vulva (external genitalia).
A gynecologist specializes in all aspects of a woman’s — or person AFAB’s — reproductive health including preventative care and screenings for cancer or STIs. Visiting a gynecologist should be part of your routine health if you’re sexually active or between 13 and 15. The ACOG recommends an annual checkup with your gynecologist.
Additionally, you should see a gynecologist when you have the following symptoms:
A gynecologist uses many different tools during an exam and treatment. The most widely known tool is called a speculum. A speculum is a duck-bill-shaped device used to open the vaginal walls. It allows the gynecologist to see the entire area and collect cells from your cervix to test for infections like HPV (human papilloma virus).
Your gynecologist will perform an internal and external exam of your reproductive organs. They’ll also check your breasts for lumps or masses. Be open and honest with your gynecologist about your sexual activity, menstrual period and any painful symptoms you’re having. This helps them provide the best care. Gynecologists may order tests such as ultrasounds, urine tests or blood tests if they detect a problem during the exam.
Next, they’ll perform a pelvic exam. They’ll insert a speculum into your vagina to better see your entire vagina and cervix (the organ between the vagina and uterus). During the pelvic exam, your gynecologist may collect cells from your cervix to check for infection or disease. This is called a Pap smear (or Pap test).
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A gynecologist specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions of the female reproductive system. They also provide routine and preventive care like screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and breast exams. Once you’re sexually active or reach age 15, you should visit one regularly. Call a gynecologist if you have any concerns or questions about your sexuality or reproductive health, or experience pain in your pelvic region. Don’t be ashamed to talk with your gynecologist about your symptoms — nothing you tell them leaves the exam room. Although it can be embarrassing to talk about issues with your vagina, your gynecologist is there to listen and provide you with the best care possible.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/01/2022.
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