What Is a Gynecologist?
Gynecologists specialize in the conditions that only affect women, especially women’s reproductive organs. They are highly trained medical doctors who have chosen to specialize in this area of medicine. Gynecologists manage disorders and diseases of the reproductive organs such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and all kinds of menstrual problems. Gynecologists also do a lot of work in health promotion, sexual health education and screening.
An obstetrician is a gynecologist who specializes in looking after women through pregnancy and childbirth. A lot of care during pregnancy is handled by midwives, so obstetric doctors (OB/GYN) are likely to see those women who are going through pregnancies that are higher risk or more complicated, such as those expecting multiple births, or women with pre-existing health problems that could affect the pregnancy. Pregnancy doctors and gyneologists specializing in fertility also help look after couples having fertility investigations and treatments.
Gynecologists can specialize in cancers of the female reproductive organs. Gynecological oncology is the study and treatment of these cancers and can involve radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or surgical interventions like hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, either with or without the ovaries).
What Does a Gynecologist Do?
Gynecologists assess, diagnose, and treat illnesses relating to female reproductive organs.
They usually see their patients in acute hospital settings and outpatient gynecology clinics.
A consultation with a gynecologist will involve a discussion of your health and symptoms, and a pelvic examination. It’s natural for some women to feel shy about this, and the doctor will do everything they can to put you at ease, explaining the process throughout and keeping you covered. You can bring a friend or family member as support, or the hospital will arrange for a chaperone. The examination will involve palpation of the lower abdomen, and a visual assessment of the vulva and vagina using a speculum, a special instrument used to gently open the vagina for inspection of the cervix and vaginal walls. Some women find pelvic examinations uncomfortable, so it’s okay to say if you need to pause or change position.
There are a range of other diagnostic tools used in gynecology, such as ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) scans, swabs and blood tests to help make the right diagnosis and plan treatment.
A colposcopy is a pelvic examination which looks more closely at the cells of the vagina and cervix using a kind of microscope and light. It’s usually performed if a cervical pap smear detected abnormal cells, and helps to assess for or rule out cervical cancer. A biopsy may be taken at the same time – a small sample of tissue that will be sent to the lab for closer testing.
A hysteroscopy is an examination where a thin tube is passed through the vagina and cervix into the uterus (womb). The tube acts as a light and a camera and allows the gynecologist to make a close examination of the walls of the uterus. It can be performed with or without general anaesthetic.