What Is A Gynecologist?

Many women are familiar with OB/GYNs, but what is a Gynecologist, and how is it different?

What Is A Gynecologist?

A Gynecologist is a doctor that specializes in women’s health, especially as it relates to reproductive organs. Obstetricians are doctors that are specialized in caring for pregnant women. While the two fields are separate, many Gynecologists specialize in both, which is why you often see OB/GYN listed as it’s own specialty.

What Conditions Do Gynecologists Treat?

Gynecologists can treat any issue that relates to a woman’s reproductive organs, but also treats women’s general health issues as well. Some of the things that gynecologists may treat include the following:

How Often Should I See A Gynecologist?

Women should see their gynecologist once a year for regular exams, but visits may be more frequent if they are experiencing problems, or if they are pregnant. This goes for women at any age from teens to older women.

But I’ve Already Gone Through Menopause. Do I Really Still Have To See A Gynecologist?

Yes! In fact, regular screenings are just as important now as they were when you were younger. You should also still receive pelvic exams – even if you’re not getting a Pap smear – to check for things like sexually transmitted diseases, and any signs of cancer. In addition, incontinence or prolapse can also be big concerns as women get older. Don’t just assume that these are a normal part of aging and that nothing can be done. Your gynecologist can work with you to develop a treatment plan for these conditions, and recommend surgery if it is needed and desired. 

What To Expect At Your Gynecologist Visit

At your first visit, your gynecologist will want to get your medical history, and will likely do a pelvic examination. He or she may also do a breast check, to check for any unusual lumps. If they don’t instruct you how to do your own, ask them. Women should perform regular checks for breast lumps on their own outside of their yearly exams so they know what is normal, and can recognize when something seems unusual.

After that, your yearly exams will be pretty routine, unless you have an issue or if you are pregnant. Once you get older, your doctor will talk with you about menopause, the changes and symptoms you may be experiencing, and how to treat them. Your gynecologist will also perform regular checks of the ovaries, vagina, bladder, rectum, and your uterus. A lot can still happen in your later years, including various cancers, STDs, vaginal tears (due to increased dryness of the vaginal walls), incontinence, or prolapse, so it’s important to keep up with those regular routine exams.

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

Taking the first step in talking to your doctor about bladder or bowel issues is hard, but it’s a necessary part of getting treatment. Make the leap and find a specialist today so that you can start getting this problem under control and living your life again.

Prepare For Your Visit

Preparing for your visit and knowing what to expect can help make this conversation a bit less intimidating. Make sure you read up on the conditions and treatment options available so that you know the right questions to ask your doctor. It may help to write your questions down ahead of time so that you don’t forget them during the appointment, when your nerves can get the better of you. It may also help to keep a bladder or bowel diary for a few days prior to your visit, so that you can give your doctor (and yourself!) a good glimpse into your bathroom patterns. By keeping a diary you may even start to see some common links associated between your habits (what you eat and drink) and your urges or leaks.

What To Expect At Your Appointment

You may be wondering what to expect when you see your doctor.  Here is a rundown on some things he or she may talk with you about or do during your appointment:

Your symptoms.

Your doctor will likely ask you to describe all the symptoms you are experiencing.  This is where your trusty bladder diary that you’ve been filling out will come in handy.  Review this with them and tell them anything else about your incontinence that is causing you trouble.  

Your medical history.

Your doctor will want to know about all of your medical history, particularly details of childbirth and any pelvic surgery.  Be sure to tell him or her about any other problems that may be related to your incontinence – bladder infections, difficulty urinating, neurologic problems such as back injury, stroke, or any gynecologic problems are all things that may play into your symptoms and help your doctor determine an appropriate treatment plan for you.

Prior treatments for incontinence.

Talk with your doctor about what you’ve done to treat your incontinence, and how it has worked for you.  Have you used medication?  Had surgery? Any other procedures?  He needs to know.

Physical examination. 

Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination.  He or she may test your urine for infection or other problems, catheterize you to determine if you are emptying the bladder completely, or examine you while coughing and straining to see if that has any effect on incontinence.  In more advanced cases, your doctor may also request that an X-ray or MRI of the bladder be done to get a better insight into what is happening.

Your wishes. 

It is important to note that while your doctor may suggest some options he or she feels are best for you, you have a strong say in your treatment plan too.  Voice any concerns you have about certain treatment options and ask about ones that you are interested in.  Not keen on medications? Tell him!  Want to see if physical therapy may help?  Ask more about this option.  Your wishes matter and your doctor will want to know the types of treatments you are willing to try.  After all, by setting you up with a treatment plan you are on board with, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and experience success, which is exactly what your doctor wants for you.  So speak up!

Be Open

Above all else, be as open and honest about your condition as you can be. This can be an embarrassing and hard conversation to have, but know that you are speaking with a medical professional whose job it is to have these discussions. And trust us, you are most certainly not the first patient, nor will you be the last, to have this conversation with them.  This is your chance – give them any and all information that may help them assemble the best plan possible for you.

Need some more inspiration to talk to your doctor? Check out these inspirational stories from people who made the leap!

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of Different Specialties And When You Should See Them

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of different SPecialties And When You SHould See Them.

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of different SPecialties And When You SHould See Them.

Have you been thinking about talking to a doctor about your bladder leakage problems, but just can’t muster the courage, or figure out exactly who you should talk to about it? You’re not alone. A recent poll from NAFC asked people who suffer from incontinence how long it took them to talk to their doctor.  Almost half of them waited at least a year before bringing it up (some as many as 6 + years!) and nearly 30% said they still hadn’t had the discussion.  We get it – incontinence can be an embarrassing subject to talk about – even with your doctor.  But the sooner you have the discussion, the sooner you can receive treatment. And besides, we’re pretty sure your doctor has probably had this discussion with many patients, many times before.

You may be wondering what type of doctor you should see.  That really depends.  Many primary care doctors treat incontinence and can be a good starting point, but for advanced treatment (especially if you are considering something like surgery), a urologist may be the better bet.  Here is a breakdown of some common specialties that treat incontinence.  Read through these and think about your own situation and treatment needs to determine the best option for you.

Family Medicine/Primary Care Physician.  

This type of doctor is a general practitioner and provides broad care to many acute, chronic and preventative medical conditions.  The Family Medicine doctor will help you identify the type of incontinence you have and talk with you about your options.  The family medicine doctor may prescribe medication or other treatment, or, for more advanced cases, refer you to a specialist focused in urology. 

Internist. 

Similar to Family Medicine doctors, Internists provide general care, but usually only to adults.  Internists can serve as a primary care physician, and provide comprehensive, long-term care for both common and complex diseases. 

Urologist. 

These doctors specialize in managing problems with the male and female urinary tract, and male reproductive organs.  Most urologists are surgeons, and many may specialize further in a sub-specialty, such as pediatrics, female urology or gynecology.

Urogynecologist.

An OB-GYN who has advanced training in pelvic floor dysfunction in women. Women with stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse are often referred to a urogynecologist for treatment.

Physical Therapist.

Physical Therapists, or “PTs” that focus on women’s health often treat pelvic floor disorders, which cover a wide range of problems such as incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, or joint pain.  The focus of physical therapy is to strengthen and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor and to design physical activity programs that help the patient in these areas.

OBGYN. 

A doctor specialized in obstetrics and gynecology is a doctor who manages the reproductive health of women, family planning, pregnancy, and postnatal health. 

Gynecologist.  

A Gynecologist specializes in the reproductive health of women.  Some gynecologists have special training in diagnosing and treating urinary incontinence and prolapse (often urogynecologists).

Geriatrician. 

A geriatrician is a doctor that specializes in the care of older adults. They typically train as a family practitioner or internal medicine doctor, and then spend at least one extra year completing a geriatrics fellowship. Diseases, medications and illnesses can sometimes affect older people differently than younger patients, and a geriatrician is specially trained to handle these cases. Not everyone needs to see one though – if you have established a relationship with a family practitioner or internal medicine doctor and are happy with your care, feel free to continue! But, if as an older adult, you are suffering from a number of diseases or impairments (physical or cognitive) you may want to consult with a geriatrician who has received specialized training in treating patients over the age of 65.

Gastroenterologist. 

A gastroenterologist is a doctor that has received special training in managing diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract and liver. They study how materials move through the stomach, how they digest and absorb into the body, and then how they are removed as waste from the system. Gastroenterologists typically treat colon cancer, GERD (heartburn), hemorrhoids, bloody stool, ulcers, gallbladder issues, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and pancreatitis. You will typically be referred to a Gastroenterologist by your FP or internist if you experience any abnormalities related to your stools, or digestion, including blood in your stool, difficulty swallowing or abdominal pain. Additionally, many men and women over 50 receive screening for colon cancer from a gastroenterologist.

Dietitian. 

A dietitian is a health care professional that treats nutritional problems in patients. They typically work with both sick and healthy people to formulate food and nutrition plans for patients based on their conditions, and help them incorporate them into their lifestyle. Dietitians may be helpful to patients looking to modify their food intake to avoid bladder irritants.

Once you’ve determined the best doctor to see for your incontinence, it’s time to make an appointment!  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator to find a doctor near you and call them today.  You’ll be that much closer to managing and treating your symptoms.

With Incontinence Treatment, Educating Yourself Is Half The Battle

Millions of Americans experience some form of incontinence.  And, while this condition affects both genders, if you are a woman, you are more likely to suffer from incontinence than men due to things like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. 

There are several different types of incontinence you may experience:

  • Stress Urinary Incontinence:  SUI occurs when any extra pressure placed on your bladder or abdomen causes you to leak urine.  Things like sneezing, laughing, or certain exercise all may trigger SUI.   
  • Urge Incontinence: Also known as Overactive Bladder, Urge Incontinence is the sudden, frequent feeling that you need to use the restroom. 
  • Mixed Incontinence: Many people suffer from both Stress Urinary Incontinence and Urge Incontinence combined.
  • Urinary Retention: This type of incontinence occurs when you are unable to completely empty your bladder, leading to leaks. 

The good news is that all of these conditions are treatable.  And now, more than ever, there are countless options for treatment, so if you haven’t yet found something that works for you, try again!  Here are some popular treatment options:

  • Absorbent products: Probably one of the most widely used treatment options, absorbent products are a good first line treatment for those who experience leaks.  There are many different types and fit is very important, so expect to try out a few and see what works best for you. And whatever you do, don’t use sanitary pads in place of absorbent products specifically designed for leaks – the two are made of different materials and sanitary pads are not designed to hold urine, so leaks are likely to occur if you use them for that purpose.
  • Behavioral Therapy:  Before trying out medication or other procedures, you may want to tweak some of your behaviors to see if they have any effect.  Things like altering your diet to eliminate bladder-irritating foods, starting a physical therapy routine, or practicing bladder retraining can all have an effect on managing your symptoms.
  • Medications: There are a number of medications that may help you with bladder control.  Most medications work by calming the bladder and reducing the spasms that sometimes happen and cause leakage.  Talk with your doctor about the different types and learn what may work best for you.
  • Non-invasive procedures: If you’ve tried medications and have not seen results, or experienced unwanted side effects, you may want to give a non-invasive procedure a try.  InterStim, Botox, and PTNS are all simple procedures that can be administered in a urologist’s office and can have a significant effect on symptoms and quality of life.  Talk with your doctor to learn more about these procedures and what you can expect if you choose to go this route.
  • Surgery:  Several surgical options exist for those experiencing urinary incontinence.  Surgery is often a more permanent solution, and is a common approach for many who have failed on other treatment plans.  But, it’s not for everyone, and may not always eliminate all your symptoms.  Be sure to talk to your doctor (usually a urological surgeon) about what may work for you and what you can expect after surgery.

Finding the best treatment plan for you requires you to play an active role.  Know your options and educate yourself about the different treatments available so you are better able to discuss them with your physician and make an informed decision together. 

To find a specialist in your area, visit the NAFC Specialist Locator and make an appointment today!