An OB-GYN, or obstetrician-gynecologist, is a doctor who specializes in women’s health. The female body experiences many different biological functions, including menstruation, childbirth, and menopause. OB-GYNs provide care for all of this and more. Here’s a look at what they do and when you should consider seeing one.

What is an OB-GYN?

An obstetrician-gynecologist, or OB-GYN, has expertise in female reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth. Some OB-GYNs offer a wide range of general health services similar to your primary care doctor. Others focus on the medical care of the female reproductive system.

OB-GYNs also provide routine medical services and preventive screenings. This type of doctor has studied obstetrics and gynecology.

The term “OB-GYN” can refer to the doctor, an obstetrician-gynecologist, or to the sciences that the doctor specializes in, which are obstetrics and gynecology.

What is gynecology?

Gynecology is the branch of medicine that focuses on women’s bodies and their reproductive health. It includes the diagnosis, treatment, and care of women’s reproductive system.

This includes the:

  • vagina
  • uterus
  • ovaries
  • fallopian tubes

This branch of medicine also includes screening for and treating issues associated with women’s breasts.

Gynecology is the overarching field of women’s health from puberty through adulthood. It represents most of the reproductive care you’ll receive during your lifetime. If you become pregnant, you’ll need to go to an obstetrician.

What are the specialty areas?

Approximately 90 percent of OB-GYNs are generalists. This means they work across a wide range of OB-GYN services. Some choose to specialize in one or more different subspecialties. These may include:

Maternal-fetal medicine

These specialists care for patients with high-risk pregnancies and related medical conditions. You might see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist if you have:

  • chronic or gestational high blood pressure
  • gestational diabetes
  • blood-clotting disorders
  • premature labor

Reproductive endocrinology and infertility

These endocrinologists address issues related to infertility and the glands and hormones of the endocrine system. If you wish to become pregnant but are having trouble conceiving, you can go to a reproductive endocrinologist. They perform assisted reproduction procedures, such as:

  • in vitro fertilization
  • gamete intrafallopian transfer
  • zygote intrafallopian transfer
  • embryo transfer

Gynecologic oncology

These oncologists specialize in diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive system. This includes cancers of the:

  • uterus
  • cervix
  • ovaries
  • vulva

Female pelvic medicine and reproductive surgery

These surgeons focus on treating women with urinary tract disorders. They also focus on disorders of the muscle and connective tissue located just beneath a woman’s pelvis. This area is called the pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor may become weak as a result of pregnancy, age, or certain medical conditions. These specialists address:

  • urinary or fecal incontinence
  • vaginal or urinary tract infections
  • overactive bladder
  • bladder pain
  • pelvic organ prolapse