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What is an OB/GYN?


An OB/GYN is a primary care provider specializing in diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative medicine for girls and women. An OB/GYN has experience and education in two fields of care: obstetrics, the branch of medicine focused on childbirth and the health of pregnant women, and gynecology, the branch of medicine focused on women’s health and the health of female reproductive organs. In most cases, a medical student will undergo training to provide both care modalities.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls first see an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 and 15. A family medicine provider or pediatrician will handle health issues related to the reproductive tract before adolescence. A preliminary visit with an OB/GYN may only consist of discussing puberty, menstrual periods, and sexual activity. Most girls will not need a pap smear or pelvic exam on their first visit unless they are experiencing abnormal pain or bleeding.

In subsequent visits, the OB/GYN will perform a pelvic exam and general physical exam to get a complete picture of the patient’s overall and reproductive health.

During a general physical exam:

  • Patient’s height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) are measured
  • Blood pressure is taken
  • Lungs are auscultated for any breathing abnormalities
  • Heart rate and rhythm assessed to check for heart murmurs or arrhythmias
  • Abdomen examined for any tenderness, organ enlargement, or hernias
  • Extremities checked for swelling or joint stiffness
  • Skin examined for lesions, rashes, bumps, etc.
  • Eyesight tested with an eye chart

During a pelvic exam:

  • The healthcare provider will start by examining both legs for any abnormalities
  • The vulva is visually examined for bumps, irritation, sores, or redness
  • The OB/GYN uses a speculum–a plastic or metal device that spreads open the vaginal walls–to conduct an internal exam of the vagina
  • The OB/GYN will insert two lubricated fingers into the vagina while applying pressure to various areas to feel for any signs of infection or other irregularities
  • Samples of cervical cells may be taken for further testing if needed (Pap smear)
  • Questions about sexual practices, menstrual cycle, pregnancy history, etc., may be asked during this time

Pap tests are used to screen for cervical cancer, usually done at the same time as a pelvic exam and/or HPV test.

The ACOG recommends that women receive pap tests every 3 years starting at 21. These preventative tests catch cancers, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and cysts.

What conditions can an OB/GYN treat?


Obestetrician-gynecologists are fully trained medical doctors with the education and experience to treat hundreds of conditions and diseases.

Common conditions include:

Incontinence: Urinary incontinence--a loss of bladder control--affects people of all ages and genders. Individuals dealing with incontinence may occasionally experience urine leakage or intense feelings of urinating without having time to get to a restroom.

Cervical Cancer: Cervical cancer affects nearly 14,000 women per year. This form of cancer starts in the cervix–the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina–and is often caused by exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). While cervical cancer can affect anyone with a cervix, it most often occurs in people over 30. Common symptoms include bleeding after intercourse, a foul-smelling discharge, and pelvic pain.

Menstrual disorders: The early signs of a menstrual disorder include heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, abnormally frequent bleeding, and severely painful cramps. These symptoms potentially indicate a menstrual disorder, such as endometriosis, endometrial polyps, endometrial cancer, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Ovarian cysts: Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets within or on the surface of an ovary. They can range in size. In most cases, ovarian cysts are harmless and do not cause any symptoms. However, if these growths become too large, they can press into other internal organs, causing pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. The menstrual cycle is primarily responsible for ovarian cysts. If left untreated, ovarian cysts can cause the ovary to move and twist (ovarian torsion), resulting in severe pelvic pain and reduced blood flow to the ovary.

Pelvic pain/ pelvic inflammatory disease: Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It is most commonly caused by harmful bacteria traveling through the reproductive system and infecting the uterus or fallopian tubes. Common symptoms of PID include abdominal pain, unusual vaginal discharge, unusual vaginal bleeding, and pain during sex. PID is typically a complication of a sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, and it can result in additional complications like infertility and pelvic organ scarring.

Urinary tract infections: A urinary tract infection is a prevalent form of bacterial infection in any part of the urinary system. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and begin to spread to the bladder and urethra. Cystitis is a type of UTI that occurs when the bladder becomes inflamed. Women are at greater risk for UTIs than men due to their anatomy. The urethra is closer to the anus in women than in men. This anatomical layout makes harmful bacteria more likely to spread from the anus to the urinary system. Additionally, the urethra is shorter, allowing faster passage of harmful bacteria from the outside environment into the bladder.

OB/GYNs also play a crucial role in detecting and treating cancers in the female reproductive system.

Gynecologic cancers include:

  • Cervical Cancer: a cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
  • Ovarian Cancer: a cancer that begins in the ovaries on either side of the uterus.
  • Uterine or Endometrial Cancer: cancer that begins in the uterus (womb) from cells named endometrial cells.
  • Vaginal Cancer: cancer that forms in tissues of the vagina, which is also called as “birth canal.”
  • Vulvar Cancer: a type of severe but rare gynecologic cancer occurring when abnormal cells grow out of control in the vulvar area.
  • Fallopian Tube Cancer: This type of gynecological cancer affects the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the womb and carry eggs from the ovaries to the womb each month during the menstrual cycle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 94,000 women were diagnosed with a form of gynecologic cancer every year between 2012 and 2016. Uterine cancer was the most commonly diagnosed form of gynecologic cancer, and vaginal cancer was the least common.

How do I book an OB/GYN appointment?


OB/GYN visits are fundamental to women’s health and the health of the reproductive system. Sesame has partnered with hundreds of OB/GYNs nationwide—including Houston—to offer comprehensive and affordable care regardless of insurance status. Sesame connects you directly with providers, not insurance companies, so you can get high-quality care without worrying about networks or hidden fees.

Here’s how to book a visit:

  • Search "OB/GYN" in Sesame’s search bar
  • Explore the list of nearby service providers
  • Choose from video or in-person services
  • Choose a time that best accommodates your schedule
  • Book your visit!

Yep, it’s that easy. Don’t wait to get the health care you need. Book an in-person or video visit today.

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