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What is a gynecologist?
A gynecologist is a physician who specializes in the female reproductive system, which includes the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, vagina and vulva. Menstrual problems, contraception, sexuality, menopause and infertility issues are diagnosed and treated by a gynecologist; most gynecologists also provide prenatal care, and some provide primary care.

Menstrual problems include amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods), dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods) and menorrhagia (heavy menstrual periods). Menorrhagia is a common indication for hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus. Ovarian cysts, endometriosis and human papillomavirus are other conditions that may be detected by a gynecologist, as are incontinence, prolapse of the pelvic organs and infections in any area of the female reproductive system. A gynecologist may detect fungal, bacterial, viral or protozoal infections.

Gynecologists most frequently perform an examination known as a pap smear, which is a test that uses an instrument called a speculum to detect abnormalities in the female reproductive system, including cervical and ovarian cancers. Pap smears are conducted bimanually and often are accompanied by a rectovaginal examination, which allows for a complete examination of the pelvic area. An ultrasound may be used to confirm any abnormalities detected by a Pap smear or rectovaginal exam.

Most gynecologists are also obstetricians. An obstetrician is a specialist in the management of pregnancy, labor, and the time immediately following childbirth known as puerperium. An obstetrician/gynecologist, also known as an OB/GYN, covers areas ranging from preventive care to detection of sexually transmitted diseases to family planning. They may also be involved in adolescent gynecology and endocrinology or deal with behavioral problems among young women.

The four subspecialties for an OB/GYN are gynecologic oncology, maternal/fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and urogynecology/reconstructive pelvic surgery.

Here are further guidelines.