Please tell me all about this OB GYN stuff, as a bloke

My longest sexual relationship is roughly a year. Even so you would think I would get what this “OB/GYN” stuff is about but I honestly don’t. It may be that women have kept it from me over here, but I don’t THINK that in the UK women are going to the doctor constantly like they are in teh US about their lady bits. Certainly while it’s been a couple of years now I’m sure I’d have been sleeping with those who should have told me but they didn’t.

So anyway, please tell me about what happens in the US. What’s going on?It is probably best for simplicity if everyone starts at the very beginnning and goes on till the end - what does female hygeine involve?

I feel quite embarassed to be asking this qeustion tbh, one reason I’m doing it here!

Women in the US generally go to the gynecologist every year because of their birth control. Gynecologists traditionally require a yearly visit in order to renew a prescription for a year’s worth of BC. The visit is usually very basic and involves a blood pressure check, a brief health screening (feeling OK? any issues?), a breast exam, and a vaginal exam. Women are encouraged to get yearly Pap smears as well, although currently some providers are trending away from the yearly smears if it’s not medically indicated. At many gynecologists, STD screenings are separate and must be requested.

Otherwise, most women, like most humans, go to the doctor only when an issue presents itself.

In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening program starts at 25, and is 3 yearly until 50. The smears are often collected in the surgery by a specialised nurse-practictioner.

Also, many other issues relating to contraception, menstruation, pregnancy and sexual health will be dealt with by a GP visit, midwife or in-surgery clinic, without any referral to a OB/GYN consultant.


If going to the doctor constantly is once a year, then I guess we do. I’ve been on one type of birth control or another since I was 17. I get yearly checkups anyway, including a full blood panel, and as I’m getting closer to perimenopausal age, my doc’s fine with keeping me on the Pill, as long as my lipid panel looks good, blood pressure is OK, I verify I don’t smoke, and I see her yearly to verify all this. Plus we do the PAP and check for STD’s since it’s all included with my co-pay, why not?

I wonder if the OP is confused because many US women are able to use an OB/GYN as their primary care physician as part of their health plan. There were a lot of years when I had all of the above done yearly with an OB/GYN simply because that was my primary doctor. It just happened that my last health plan switch got me in more easily with a regular family practitioner who can also do all the necessary stuff.

What do you mean by “constantly”?

In general, it’s an annual visit, as others have already said.

How does it go?

The patient gets undressed into a gown and then the doctor checks BP and asks questions about her sex life and her birth control, whether she drinks, smokes, or takes any new medications since last time. Then she lies down and he does a breast exam to look for lumps. Then she gets her feet up into the stirrups for the unpleasant part: the pelvic exam. After using fingers to probe the vaginal walls for abnormalities, he uses a speculum to hold the vagina open while he has a look inside and scrapes the cervix for the PAP to screen for cervical cancer. This involves a stiff little brush that collects cells from the cervix - they’re transferred to a slide which will then be stained with special dye so someone can look for cancerous cells. Sometimes infectious disease testing (HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV) is done at these exams, too, which can involve a blood test (HIV, syphilis) or some PCR testing on the cells that just came off the cervix (GC/Chlamydia/HPV). If the patient is on prescription birth control, she’ll usually leave with a renewed prescription for another year.

And that’s the basic annual exam, more or less.

Did I read that right? In the UK, beginning at age 25, you are recommended to endure THREE PAP SMEARS A YEAR!?

Speaking as an American, holy moly. Do people really do that!?

Nope. Once every three years.

Yes, it’s the difference between “3 yearly” and “3-yearly.” :cool:

Interesting. I’m a man and I’ve wondered why there is a medical specialty just for womens’ issues, while there isn’t really an equivalent for men. Why isn’t there a medical specialty just for mens’ issues? Is the female system just that more complex, or does it have more complex problems, more different types of problems, or are the consequencies of female problems typically more serious than the consequences of problems in mens’ distinctive medical issues?

Gestation and birth are pretty complicated, and the apparatus to support them reflect this.

Whew. Never been more glad to be wrong.

My doctor was saying Paps more frequently than every-other-year it isn’t medically indicated for a person like me who has never had a positive test. So I asked her if I could have a 2-year BC prescription. She said “no.” :confused:

There is. Sort of. It’s called “urology”. Urologists focus on the urinary tracts of both males and females, and on the reproductive systems of males. In reality, the vast majority of their work is on males. They’re the ones you see if you have prostate troubles, for example.

I would second what others have said: Some women don’t see OB-GYNs at all; you can let your GP/family practitioner handle nearly all aspects of female plumbing, up to and including pregnancy & birth.

To Antigen’s description I would add that the doc will also palpitate the lower abdomen during the pelvic exam.

You’re kidding, right? There is. It’s called urology.

[grr… snaked by Suranyi]

Simple Linctus, I don’t know how curious you really are, or how brave, but a Google search will turn up all kinds of sites describing the customary practices. YouTube even has graphic videos of the full procedures. I looked it up once, and let’s just say: curiosity so much more than beyond satisfied now :eek:

I never knew there was a fundamental difference between how women in the U.S. approach professional care for their “lady bits” as opposed to the U.K…live and learn.

What do Brit broads do? Just take a biennial salt water cure at Brighton Beach? :confused:

Not only are they more complex, as MandaJO pointed out, but pregnancy can cause maternal death. That’s kind of serious.

There are also a lot more things which can go wrong (dysmenorrhoea, dyspareunia, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, prolapse to name but a few) which are better treated by a medical practitioner with specialised knowledge.

Women in Australia - at least those of my acquaintance - don’t seem to see a gynaecologist as frequently as American women. Mostly we see our GPs which will refer us if a specialist is necessary. We also don’t take our children to see a paediatrician as a matter of course.

Go to a GP surgery. Going directly to a specialist is not done.

Yeah, we in America don’t go to surgery unless someone has referred us to a surgeon.

(Yah, yah, I kid. But it’s still bizarre for me to see a regular doctor’s office referred to as a “surgery.”)

Here, a paediatrician or a gynecologist is almost not considered a specialty. I mean, officially, yes, they are specialties, but in the popular mind, it’s not like an oncologist or anaesthesiologist or psychiatrist or surgeon. (In fact, in the United States, a physician can specialize in general practice or family practice. Go figure.)