October 1, 2022
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OB/GYN and the unique needs of women’s health

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If you’ve ever been pregnant or had an annual well-woman exam, you’re probably familiar with visiting an OB/GYN provider for certain care needs. However, your OB/GYN can do much more.

While OB/GYNs are associated with pregnancy and reproductive health, they are also committed to helping you live your best, fullest life. Your OB/GYN is more than a medical doctor – they’re your health partner throughout every stage of life.

What is an OB/GYN provider?

OB/GYN providers are physicians who focus on obstetrics (prenatal health) and gynecology (female reproductive health). OB/GYNs have received medical degrees, completed residency training in the OB/GYN specialty and are trained to perform surgeries, like cesarean delivery (C-section).

Differences between OB/GYN and Midwife

While both certified nurse midwives and OB/GYN providers focus on women’s health care, they differ in a few ways. Firstly, the medical training is different. Midwives receive a nursing degree and spend a few years in the nursing field, then go back to school for a degree in nurse midwifery. Also, midwives can’t perform surgeries, though midwives and OB/GYN collaborate often to provide the best care to patients. Read more about the role of a midwife.

Women’s health care throughout life’s stages

During your life there can be different health concerns and personalized needs based on family history, hormones and your life stage. While most people think of a family medicine or internal medicine provider for primary care, your OB/GYN provider may also be considered a part of your primary care team – collaborating with family and internal medicine providers to help manage more female specific conditions and surgical specialties. 

“There are a lot of conditions out there we have treatments for,” said Ryan Beardsley, MD, an OB/GYN provider at MercyOne Waterloo OB/GYN. “And some of these are really painful conditions women suffer through when we have ways to manage them.”

Whether it’s pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding or your annual wellness exam, here are some common reasons to visit an OB/GYN provider:

Adolescents and young adults

There are many reasons for adolescents and young adults to visit an OB/GYN including: , irregular or painful menstrual patterns, STI testing, pap smears and HPV testing.

“Maybe your bleeding patterns are really close together or really heavy over prolonged periods of time. These are great things to ask an OB/GYN because we can evaluate whether this may increase their risks of problems later in life,” said Dr. Beardsley.

Another reason you might visit an OB/GYN provider is for pelvic pain. While there can be many reasons for pelvic pain, cysts on your ovaries or fibroids on your uterus may be one of the causes. Normally, the cyst surrounding the egg will rupture, the egg will release into the fallopian tube and be brought into the uterus. But for some women that cyst can form wrong, and the bursting can be incredibly painful.

“Sometimes these cysts cause the ovary to become lopsided causing it to twist – called an ovarian torsion. They’re floating in a thin membrane sitting between the uterus and the sidewall in the pelvis,” said Dr. Beardsley. “Similar to how a heart attack is painful because of decreased oxygen and decreased blood flow to the heart, decreased blood flow to the ovary is extremely painful and if left untreated can result in emergency surgery.”

Monitoring your cycle can help your provider understand your regular menstrual patterns.

“Women who track their periods on apps with their bleeding and pain level actually helps us a lot,” said Dr. Beardsley. “Those period planners give us insight into what your normal period is like and can help us understand your body better which helps us with treatment and pain management.”

Prenatal, labor and delivery

During pregnancy, you see your OB/GYN provider more than a dozen different times. These visits are crucial to monitoring the baby’s growth and well-being, your health and well-being, watching for high-risk conditions and other health concerns like postpartum depression.

After delivery, most women only see their OB/GYN two or three times. These visits are focused on recovery, transitioning to motherhood and overall well-being. Those first weeks are about healing from delivery and making sure any injury and inflammation has recovered. During those weeks after delivery, some common health concerns that OB/GYNs look out for include abnormal bleeding, gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.

“There’s lots of things we’re trying to make better around preeclampsia because that can actually become a recurring flare up postpartum,” said Dr. Beardsley. “Preeclampsia is one of the more common causes of maternal death in our country. Things like strokes and seizures can occur because of preeclampsia.”

Dr. Beardsley encourages women to really take advantage of their visits during pregnancy.

“One of my favorite things about caring for women through pregnancy, labor and delivery is women are very motivated to do whatever they have to take care of their baby,” said Dr. Beardsley. “And there are so many situations and conditions that the best long-term strategies are the simple ones: healthy diet, exercise and quit smoking.”

Menopause

The transition to menopause  presents unique health differences compared to the earlier stages of a woman’s life.

“I am so grateful when women are willing to come in and talk about menopause and their experiences. I see a lot of women who can comfortably talk about menopause and others who can’t,” said Dr. Beardsley. “I’ve seen women suffering for 10+ years until it’s just debilitating to the rest of their lives before they come in. And while we might not always have a treatment, we can help manage the pain and symptoms, so you don’t have to suffer through life anymore.”

Another common reason for an OB/GYN visit is if you’re experiencing postmenopausal bleeding.

“Most of the time it’s nothing serious, but there are times where it’s an indication of a malignancy, like uterine cancer,” said Dr. Beardsley. “We don’t want women to push off visiting with someone because it can get worse over time. The earlier we catch the condition, the better we can treat it.”

Having a provider traveling the different stages of life with you is critical to maintain a complete circle of care. They know your family history, your personal medical history, understand your health values and keep you living your best life.



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