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OB/GYN Basics


Obstetrics and gynecology–the “OB” and “GYN” of “OB/GYN”--are two branches of medicine that focus on women’s health issues. Specifically, obstetrics focuses on pre-conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery health care. Gynecology focuses on concerns and conditions specific to women and girls, especially those of the reproductive system.

While OB/GYNs specialize in health care modalities for women and girls, they are also considered primary care providers. A primary care provider offers diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative medicine services for acute and chronic conditions while working with patients to maintain their general health.

Some common reasons for seeing an OB/GYN include:

  • Questions or concerns about the female reproductive system, including breasts, uterus, vulva, ovaries, and urological symptoms
  • Issues or concerns regarding fertility, pregnancy, menstrual health, and contraception
  • Issues regarding incontinence
  • Questions about sexual health, libido, and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Concerns about urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections

Yale Medicine recommends that girls start seeing an OB/GYN between the age of 13-15. It is generally recommended that after this first visit, girls and women should see an OB/GYN every year for a routine checkup. More visits may be necessary for individuals with a medical history of gynecological issues or those at risk for gynecological conditions.

Common conditions treated by OB/GYNs include:

  • Abnormal Bleeding: Uterine bleeding outside a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle.
  • Endometriosis: A disorder in which the tissue lining the uterus grows outside of it.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): An infection caused by bacteria in the female reproductive organs.
  • Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy outside the uterus, often in fallopian tubes or ovaries.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTI): Bacterial infections of any part of the urinary system, including the bladder and urethra.
  • Menopausal Symptoms: Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, etc., due to hormonal changes associated with aging and menopause.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A condition characterized by irregular menstrual cycles and higher levels of certain hormones causing various symptoms such as infertility or hair loss.
  • Breast Health Issues: Regular screenings for lumps, cysts, fibroids, and other breast abnormalities are essential during an OB/GYN visit to maintain good breast health over time.

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, located 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.

Pap smears and pelvic exams have dramatically reduced deaths caused by gynecological cancers. The Pap smear was introduced in the 1940s and has significantly lowered the incidence of gynecological cancer mortality by over 70% since the 1950s. Currently, regular Pap screening tests have been shown to reduce the incidence and mortality of gynecological cancers by 80%. These simple screening tests are crucial to a woman’s health and preventing serious diseases.

Pap smear and pelvic exam basics


The ACOG recommends that women begin getting pelvic exams and pap tests at age 21.

The pelvic exam consists of the following:

  • Exam of the vulva
  • Exam of the vagina and cervix with the use of a speculum (an instrument that holds open the walls of the vagina
  • An internal exam to check for abnormalities, as well as the size and position of the uterus and ovaries

The pap test consists of:

  • Collection of cells from the cervix taken with a small brush

Pap tests screen for cervical cancer and are 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.

OB/GYNs and Fertility


In addition to diagnosing, treating, and preventing acute and chronic diseases like endometriosis and cancer, OB/GYNs also offer care for reproductive problems like infertility. A reproductive endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing and treating issues related to infertility, pregnancy issues, and hormone functions. Women or couples see REs for several reasons, including:

  • Inability to conceive after a full year of trying
  • Medical history of infertility or pregnancy loss
  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Attempting to conceive when a woman is over the age of 35
  • Medical history of reproductive conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, or gynecological cancer
  • Trying to conceive with a medical history of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, and human papillomavirus (HPV); or complications from STDs like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Additionally, REs may conduct several tests essential to reproductive health, such as:

  • Cervical mucus exams
  • Hormone testing, including luteinizing hormone (LH tests)
  • Blood tests to screen for human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis, and HIV/ AIDS
  • Uterine and fallopian tube X-rays

Reproductive endocrinologists can sometimes help with assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilization and reproductive counseling.

Your OB/GYN may offer a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist if they feel that specialized treatment is required to address your concerns.

Booking an OB/GYN appointment in Los Angeles


Whether you need a regular check-up or acute care for symptoms you are experiencing, Sesame can help. We have partnered with obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs) across Los Angeles County to provide women’s health care near you. With in-person and video visits available, OB/GYN care on Sesame is convenient and affordable.

In some cases, OB/GYNs require an in-person visit. For example, OB/GYNs must perform pelvic exams, Pap smears, and other diagnostic tests and preventative care practices in person. If your OB/GYN determines that you will need follow-up in-person care, they will discuss how to book that appointment with you during your visit.

Here’s how to book an OB/GYN appointment on Sesame:

  • 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!

Regular visits to the OB/GYN are crucial to maintaining your health and wellness while preventing potentially fatal diseases like uterine cancer. Don’t wait to get the care you need. Book an appointment today to save up to 60% on your care–no insurance required.

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