If you're anything like me, you refer to any "lady doctor" as an O-B-G-Y-N, spelling out every single letter every single time and assuming whenever you need a yearly exam, a cervical cancer screening, or someone to help you give birth, you see the same person. Well, turns out that's not entirely true. Like, at all. So what's the difference between an obstetrician and a gynecologist, exactly? Well, one deals with all things pregnancy and the other deals with more of an overall, comprehensive woman's health care, but it can get even more complicated than that.
From the time you get your first period to after you go through menopause, your gynecologist is your go-to doctor. According to Self, you'll go to the gynecologist for your annual exam, your pap smear, and any other problems that affect your vagina and/or reproductive organs, including your breasts. A gynecologist deals with your uterus, vagina, ovaries, and cervix, as well as breasts. KidsHealth says it's recommended that you begin seeing a gynecologist by the time you're 18 an/or when you become sexually active. Gynecologists test for STDs, cancer and pregnancy, and can treat cervical polyps, endometriosis, female infertility, fibroids, and ovarian cysts.
Once you get pregnant, though, the doctor you'll want to see is an obstetrician. This particular doctor is in charge of all things pregnancy, including prenatal care, pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. According to Parents, obstetricians often also deal with fertility testing and treatment, so if you only see a gynecologist they'll likely refer you to an obstetrician if you're trying to get pregnant and need assistance.
It is worth mentioning that most gynecologists are also obstetricians, meaning that some women don't have to see a different doctor when they get pregnant. But if your gynecologist is not also an obstetrician, he or she can refer you to the right person if you are pregnant or need to see a fertility specialist. If you need to see a fertility specialist, you might be referred to a reproductive endocrinologist. According to the site Fertility Authority, a reproductive endocrinologist is a doctor who treats both men and women who are dealing with any number of reproductive issues. These particular doctors test hormones, refer you for ultrasounds of relevant anatomy, and can recommend courses of treatment to help you become pregnant.
If you and your partner aren't sure why you haven't been able to get pregnant, you will both need to see a fertility specialist in order to ascertain what is causing you to not become pregnant. Reproductive endocrinologists can typically see and treat both men and women, meaning you can learn more about your fertility as a team rather than separately.
So, in the end, it turns out that doctors are just as complicated as pregnancy itself. Go figure.