What is the difference between a gynecologist and an obstetrician (OB)?

If you’re someone who isn’t entirely sure what the difference is between an obstetrician (commonly referred to as an OB) and a gynecologist, you’re not alone! While we typically hear the terms lumped together into “OB/GYN”, these are actually two different subspecialties of women’s health. A gynecologist is a physician who specializes in the various aspects of women’s reproductive health. This includes anything involving the uterus, cervix, vagina, ovaries, and/or the breasts.

Reasons for visiting your gynecologist include, but are not limited to:

  • Annual pap smear and breast exam
  • Birth control consultation – STD screening
  • Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
  •   … and much more!

An obstetrician, on the other hand, is a physician who specializes in the various aspects of pregnancy. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Prenatal care (i.e. advice/recommendations on how to become pregnant, issues with becoming pregnant)
  • Perinatal care (I.e. care during your pregnancy, and up to 1 year after your pregnancy)
  • Postpartum care (i.e. care following your pregnancy) all the way to care in the postpartum period.
  • … and much more!

Obstetricians follow pregnant patients closely throughout the course of their pregnancy by listening to the baby’s heartbeat with a handheld doppler, collecting lab work, performing ultrasounds, etc. Further, most obstetricians are trained in how to handle various complications that may arise during a pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, abnormal bleeding, etc.

Many physicians, including all of our physicians at Seven Oaks Women’s Center, carry the title OB/GYN, meaning that they specialize in both gynecology and obstetrics. Our doctors have completed this extensive, all-inclusive training in order to provide the most comprehensive care to our patients.


When should I see an obstetrician?

There are many circumstances in which it would be appropriate to schedule an appointment to see your Seven Oaks obstetrician (OB). If you are planning to try to become pregnant soon, you could see your OB for general advice and recommendations on conceiving. If you have missed your period and/or have had a positive pregnancy test, you should schedule a visit to confirm the pregnancy at our office. If a pregnancy is confirmed, you will likely be making multiple trips to our office over the next 9 months!


What happens at the very first visit of my pregnancy?

First, you will have an ultrasound with one of our sonographers that will confirm the pregnancy and measure the baby. – Next, you will see one of our medical assistants who will ask you a series of questions regarding your health status. – Then, you will meet with your provider in order to review the ultrasound, which will help to confirm how far along you are as well as your due date.

The provider will then review how often we will be seeing you throughout your pregnancy when you can expect to be getting bloodwork and/or ultrasounds, general health recommendations throughout pregnancy, and much more! Your visit may also include an annual exam/pap smear. You are free and encouraged to ask any and all questions throughout this visit!

Finally, prior to leaving the office, you will have your blood drawn for various labs that are required in early pregnancy, as well as schedule your next visit!


What questions should I ask at my first OB visit?

If this is your first pregnancy, you might not even know what to ask at your first visit, and that’s okay! Our providers will do their best to cover all of the most important expectations, topics, and recommendations regarding your pregnancy. However, a few things you want to be sure are covered in your initial visit include:

  • How often you will need to be returning to the office/when your next visit will be
  • When you will be getting ultrasounds and/or lab work What of your normal medications are safe to take during pregnancy
  • How much weight you should gain throughout the course of your pregnancy
  • What types of exercise are safe/recommended
  • What diet modifications are recommended
  • If you’re allowed to continue your normal beauty routine (i.e. dying hair, painting nails, getting a massage, etc.)
  •  If you have any predisposing conditions or medical history that put you at an increased risk for complications during your pregnancy


When should my daughter see the gynecologist?

Many women ask about when the younger women in their life, whether that be a daughter, cousin, niece, or friend, should start seeing a gynecologist. The current ACS (American Cancer Society) and ASCCP (American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology) recommendation are to begin screening for cervical cancer (i.e. getting a Pap smear) at age 21, regardless of the age of initiation of sexual activity. However, we commonly see women under the age of 21 for various reasons including, but not limited to:

  •  Irregular periods
  •  Birth control counseling
  • STD screening
  • Breast concerns
  • Personal reasons
  • etc.

If this is the case for a young woman in your life, please advise her that she is welcome to schedule an appointment and be seen by one of our Seven Oaks providers.


What does a gynecologic exam include?

A trip to our office for your annual well women’s exam typically includes, but is not limited to:

  • A general health screening
  • A full pelvic exam (including a pap smear, if necessary based on current guidelines)
  • A breast exam
  • A screen for sexually transmitted disease
  • … and more!


Your health is important to us! Be sure to come into one of our three Seven Oaks locations on an annual basis as a preventative measure, in order to get refills on any medications you may be taking, etc.


Do gynecologists perform surgery?

Yes! All 8 of our Seven Oaks physicians perform various gynecologic surgeries. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Colposcopy
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Hysterectomy
  • Endometrial ablation
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C)
  • … and more!


When should I seek emergency obstetric care?

There are several things that can happen throughout a pregnancy that may raise concern, but how are you supposed to know what warrants immediate medical attention? Anytime you feel as though you and/or the life of your unborn child are at risk, it is important that you seek medical care. Some examples of a possible obstetric emergency include:

  • Vaginal bleeding/spotting
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Pelvic cramping/contractions
  • Persistently elevated blood pressures
  • Vision changes
  • Severe swelling


What is a high-risk pregnancy?

A pregnancy is considered high-risk when there are certain factors affecting the pregnancy that put the mother and/or the unborn baby at risk of illness or death. Some of the factors that may be considered high-risk include:

  • Advanced maternal age
  • Poor lifestyle habits
  • Pre-existing health problems, such as high blood pressure, etc.
  • Complications with the pregnancy
  • Multiple babies, such as twins or triplets

If you are uncertain as to whether or not the symptoms you are having warrant emergent care, we still recommend either going to your closest emergency room from evaluation or calling our office and speaking with one of our nurses (if during office hours) or the on-call physician (if after hours).


Can I still come in for my appointment if I’m on my period?

Yes! It’s not always easy to predict when you’ll have your period, especially if you’re scheduling your appointment months in advance. If you’re bleeding when it comes time for your visit, don’t worry! We can still see you. Vaginal bleeding does not affect our ability to do a pelvic exam or pap smear unless it is excessive or extremely heavy. Still unsure if you should be coming in for your visit? Call prior to your appointment and we’ll make sure it’s okay for you to keep your scheduled visit!


When do I see my OBGYN while I’m pregnant?

You should usually see your Seven Oaks physician for the first time in your pregnancy between 6 to 8 weeks. If you are determined to be at low risk and do not have any foreseeable complications, you will continue to come into the office once every four weeks until you reach the third trimester. At that point, we’ll start seeing you every two weeks until closer to delivery when we’ll begin seeing you on a weekly basis.


Will my OBGYN test for STDs during my pregnancy?

Yes. The state of Texas requires that we test for certain STDs at least once in the first trimester and again in the third trimester of your pregnancy. The STDs we screen for include:

  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B
  • HIV
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea


Will my own OBGYN deliver my baby?

Our Seven Oaks physicians go to great lengths to try to deliver their own patient’s babies! If you go into labor during our office hours, and your physician is at our Medical Center location that day, then he/she will likely be there. However, if you go into labor after our office has closed for the day, including on the weekends, then whichever one of our physicians is on-call will likely be there.


What is robotic surgery?

Robotic surgery is a type of medical procedure that involves sophisticated software and hardware that allows a surgeon to control robotic arms for the purpose of performing surgery. Some of the benefits of this type of surgery are:

  • Highly precise
  • Small incisions
  • Less downtime

Although it sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, robotic surgery is very real and it happens every day.

The surgeon can do the surgery without having to make a large incision. Instead of making a deep surgical incision, the robot arm is able to enter the abdomen through a small insertion point. Additional small incisions may be made to introduce more robotic instruments into the surgical field.

The physician that does the surgery will sit at a station near the patient and guide the robotic arms throughout the procedure. The robotic software has built-in safety features that keep patients protected and surgical movements precise.


Is robotic surgery painful?

Although there are claims that robotic surgery is less painful than traditional surgery, any type of surgery known today causes at least a little pain.

Depending on the type of surgery that is taking place, the pain could be great or small. In most cases, the robotic instruments will make a much smaller incision than a doctor would in a traditional surgery. When there is s smaller incision, there tends to be less pain involved.

Some people have a lower threshold than others when it comes to being able to tolerate pain. Therefore, whether or not the surgery is “painful” could be a matter of perspective.

In any case, robotic surgery is not without pain, but it can be much less painful than regular surgery.


Is robotic surgery better?

Robotic surgery can be a great alternative to traditional surgery depending on the circumstances. Technology is advancing more and more each day and there are new ways to implement robotic surgery coming out all of the time. However, there are certain situations where a surgeon will have to do a traditional operation.

Since there is less damage to the tissues, the healing time is considerably less than it would be for a regular operation.

Less pain, more precision, less time to heal, and an all-around safer operation make robotic surgery a much better option than traditional surgery under the right circumstances.


What types of gynecologic procedures can be performed robotically?

  • Hysterectomy
  • Myomectomy (removal of fibroids)
  • Ovarian cyst removal
  • Removal of ovaries
  • Resection of endometriosis

Robotics may be used by other types of surgeons as well, including:

  • Urologists
  • General surgeons
  • Cardiovascular surgeons


Does insurance cover robotic surgery?

Since robotic surgery is a type of medical procedure most insurance companies will cover it when it is necessary for the patient. Since all insurance companies are different and there can be a number of discrepancies between one policy and the next, it really depends on the situation.

If the surgery is for cosmetic purposes, it might not be covered, however, if the surgery is to correct a medical problem, it will most likely be covered.

The best way to learn whether or not a specific type of surgery is covered by your insurance is to contact your insurance agency and ask them directly.


What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a test that a gynecologist uses in order to screen for cervical cancer in individuals with a cervix. In addition to identifying cervical cancer, the Pap test can also help to identify certain infections or inflammation.

During a pelvic exam, the physician collects a sample of cells from the cervix with a small brush and sends it to the lab so that it can be reviewed under a microscope. When the technicians look at the sample, they can see the condition of the cells within the sample and determine whether or not there is a need for further investigation.

Abnormal cells may show that there is a possibility of cancer in near the future for the patient. A Pap smear may or may not test for the HPV virus, depending on your age or the results of the microscopic cell review.


Can you get a Pap smear on your period?

Yes, you can! However, it depends on how heavy your bleeding is.

A heavy flow might affect the results of the test, while a light flow might not cause any issues at all. If you have a heavy cycle or would feel more comfortable waiting until your period is over, you can reschedule the appointment for a different date.


Does a Pap smear hurt?

Placing a speculum (the instrument used to take a look at the cervix) might be uncomfortable, but collecting the Pap smear itself, should not hurt.

Every person will have their own interpretation of what is painful and what is not. For especially sensitive people the procedure could hurt, but this is not a common occurrence.

If you experience pain during a Pap smear there is a possibility that there is more going on, and should let your gynecologist know about it.