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OB/GYNs: Who They Are and When to See One

Gynecologists are doctors who specialize in the female reproductive organs. They’re often called OB/GYNs, short for obstetrician/gynecologist - or you may have heard someone call them the “gyno” for short. An obstetrician is a doctor who manages pregnancies and delivers babies, and a gynecologist manages the health of the female reproductive system. Most do both jobs, but not always. 

The advice about when a girl should start seeing a gynecologist is a bit all over the map. Some health experts recommend starting as young as 14 or 15, getting to know a new doctor shortly after they’ve started getting their period. You’ll still keep seeing your pediatrician or family doctor for many years, so if you start this young with a GYN, that person will be a second doctor for you. But many others say you don’t need to visit a GYN unless you have become sexually active or you’ve got a problem down there - maybe you have very irregular periods, maybe you’ve got serious cramps that interfere with your regular life or other pelvic pain. Young women who haven’t gotten a period at all by the time they turn 16 will almost always be sent to a gynecologist to help figure out what’s going on.

The best way to sort through when you need to go is to ask the healthcare provider who takes care of you already - you might have a pediatrician or a family medicine doctor, or maybe you see a nurse practitioner at a clinic. These people can help guide you. One thing’s for sure: if you’re having sex, then it’s time to be under the care of a GYN.

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