What to Know About Telehealth With an Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB-GYN)

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While many aspects of an appointment with an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) are hands-on, there are several scenarios where the primary purpose of your visit can be accomplished via telehealth.

OB-GYNs specialize in reproductive and sexual health care, as well as pregnancy. Examples of appointments that can be done via telehealth include prescription refills, interventions involving breastfeeding and/or tobacco use, and certain types of antenatal care.

Various forms of birth control, a stethoscope, and a keyboard

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Telehealth and COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19, telehealth has become an attractive alternative to in-person healthcare appointments. While healthcare offices and clinics are taking measures to keep staff and patients safe, refraining from going to public places—unless necessary—is a good practice during a pandemic.

When to Use Telehealth With an OB-GYN

There are a number of scenarios when a telehealth visit with an OB-GYN—or affiliated physician assistant or nurse practitioner—can provide patients with the services they need.

State Regulations

Some aspects of obstetrical and gynecological care are regulated by state laws, including when it comes to telehealth. This could be the case for things like:

  • Birth control prescriptions and refills
  • Emergency contraception
  • Abortion

Check the laws in your state before your OB-GYN telehealth visit, so you're aware of any relevant restrictions.

A telehealth appointment with an OB-GYN may be appropriate in situations including:

  • A routine check-in after a surgery or other procedure
  • A birth control prescription (or refill) including emergency contraception
  • Help with menopause symptoms
  • Help with and screening for intimate partner violence
  • Discussing options if you find out or think you are pregnant
  • Remote antenatal monitoring for blood pressure, glucose control, and asthma symptoms
  • Alcohol screening and counseling regarding alcohol use
  • Discussing lab results
  • Anxiety screening and referral
  • Depression screening and referral
  • Counseling regarding folic acid supplementation
  • Healthy diet and activity counseling
  • Substance use assessment (drug use)
  • HIV risk assessment
  • Sexually transmitted infection prevention counseling
  • Counseling and possible prescribing of medications to reduce breast cancer risk 
  • Risk assessment for BRCA testing
  • Skin cancer counseling
  • Breastfeeding services and supplies
  • Postpartum contraceptive counseling, discussion of methods, and prescribing contraceptives that do not require an in-person visit such as intrauterine devices or implants
  • Preeclampsia prevention with low-dose aspirin
  • Preeclampsia screening (if a person has appropriate resources available)
  • Tobacco screening and cessation counseling

You May Need to Be Seen In Person If...

In some situations, your OB-GYN will ask you to visit them in the office. These may include:

  • A fever or vaginal infection that is unrelated to COVID-19
  • Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, including pain in the pelvis, abdomen, or lower back
  • Problems with recovery after a recent surgery or other procedure
  • Sterilization
  • Full pelvic exam
  • Severe vaginal bleeding
  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Fertility treatments
  • Breast exam
  • Surgery
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Blood testing for sexually transmitted infections
  • Contraceptive device insertion and removal
  • Immunizations

Benefits and Challenges

There are certain circumstances under which telehealth may be an appealing option for someone seeking an OB-GYN—including situations when they may not want to opt for an in-office visit.

Benefits of Telehealth OB-GYN Visits

  • Appointments are more convenient—especially for people with compromised mobility
  • Allows patients to continue some aspects of their routine care without having to go to the office in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic, or other infectious disease outbreak
  • May increase accessibility of obstetric and gynecological care for people in rural/underserved regions
  • There are an increasing number of private sexual and reproductive healthcare companies offering OB-GYN telehealth visits at lower-than-average prices, including for those without insurance
  • Avoids having to schedule an in-person appointment to get refills on birth control pills every few months

Challenges of Telehealth OB-GYN Visits

  • Your state may have laws and/or restrictions on certain aspects of sexual and reproductive health care—or telehealth, specifically
  • Some routine procedures may require special telehealth equipment that not all doctors and patients are able to access
  • Not all liability insurers cover telemedicine malpractice
  • Video visits require a strong internet connection—something that isn't universally available yet
  • Given the parts of the body involved in OB-GYN visits, maintaining a patient's privacy and security is of particular importance
  • If a patient is seeking help regarding intimate partner violence, it may be difficult for them to have an appointment at home without their partner finding out or monitoring their visit
  • Even with cameras on phones, tablets, and computers, it may be logistically difficult for the OB-GYN to get an adequate look at a patient's genital area

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit With an OB-GYN

Before anything else, you'll need to find and/or select an OB-GYN that offers telehealth visits.

If you have been seeing an OB-GYN regularly, check-in with the office to see what kinds of telehealth options are available (if any). And while most insurance providers cover telehealth visits, double-check with the office before making an appointment.

If you don't already have a regular OB-GYN, you can search for one in your area using an online tool like Zocdoc, which indicates whether an office offers telehealth visits (as well as whether they take your insurance, if applicable).

You can also book an OB-GYN appointment through a company that exclusively offers telehealth, like Teledoc, One Medical, or Chiron.

Birth Control Refills

If you're looking for a birth control refill, there are also specialized sites that offer OB-GYN telehealth visits required for prescriptions, including Nurx, Wisp, and Lemonaid. Planned Parenthood also offers telehealth appointments with OB-GYNs.

Prior to your telehealth appointment with an OB-GYN—or physician assistant or nurse practitioner affiliated with their practice—there are a number of ways you can prepare ahead of time in order to maximize your time with the healthcare provider. These include:

  • Confirming who your appointment is with (an OB-GYN, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, etc) so you know who to expect.
  • Checking with your doctor's office and/or insurance provider (if applicable) to confirm coverage.
  • Finding out whether the appointment will be over video, or whether it can and/or will be over audio-only.
  • Making sure you have a strong internet and/or phone signal prior to the appointment.
  • Thinking ahead about answers to information you might be asked for (i.e., the date of your last menstrual cycle, how long certain symptoms have been occurring, if you've noticed any correlation between physical and mental health symptoms, etc.).
  • Having a list of questions you'd like to ask the doctor ready to go, as well as a note with your symptoms, medications, and health history (if needed).
  • If any aspect of your appointment involves a physical examination, ask the doctor's office about their privacy and security measures. Alternatively, ask if taking photos of the affected areas ahead of time and sending them via a secure email would be a better option.
  • If a physical examination is taking place, be sure to wear clothing that makes that part of your body easily accessible.
  • If video is involved, be sure to pick a private, brightly-lit room for your visit.
  • Downloading and testing the video or phone call platform their provider uses (if applicable).

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth With an OB-GYN?

Insurance coverage can vary for telehealth appointments:

  • Federal guidelines on insurance coverage and telehealth are changing constantly, thanks to COVID-19.
  • Insurance coverage can vary significantly based on your home state, so be sure to check on the latest guidelines before making any telehealth appointments.
  • Like in-person appointments, being uninsured or underinsured might affect telehealth availability.

What Happens During the Visit

Prior to your telehealth visit, the doctor's office should provide you with a set of instructions and guidelines for the appointment, including:

  • What type of examination will (or will not) occur on camera
  • How your security and privacy will be managed

If this doesn't happen, ask questions about how the appointment will work prior to your visit.

If the healthcare provider needs you to take your own vitals—like your temperature and/or blood pressure—they will mention this to you ahead of the appointment and make sure you have the equipment necessary.

Other than that, telehealth OB-GYN visits are similar to other telehealth appointments:

  1. Using the link provided to you by the office, you'll sign into the platform and stay in a virtual "waiting room" until the medical professional is able to see you.
  2. Then, you'll discuss the reason for your visit—whether it's for birth control, prescription refill, suspected infection, routine health maintenance, or other health concerns.
  3. If any type of visual examination is required, the healthcare professional will walk you through how exactly to do that.
  4. Don't forget to ask any questions you had prepared ahead of your appointment, or that have come up during the visit.
  5. The visit will typically end with a summary of what has been discussed, diagnosed, or prescribed.
  6. The doctor should confirm that any prescriptions have been sent to your pharmacy of choice (if that doesn't happen, you should ask about it) and let you know if you can expect to continue using telehealth for future visits.

If the OB-GYN needs you to come to the office for an in-person visit for testing or a closer examination, they will let you know and provide information for booking that appointment.

A Word From Verywell

Telehealth OB-GYN appointments can include refilling a birth control prescription you've been on for years, or any type of counseling or follow-up visits that don't require a physical examination. Of course, given the nature of OB-GYN appointments—particularly the part where the patient is in stirrups—certain exams, tests, and procedures will continue to be done in person.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Coronavirus (COVID-19) and women’s health care: a message for patients.

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Covid-19 faqs for obstetrician-gynecologists, telehealth.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Implementing telehealth in practice.

  4. Kaiser Family Foundation. Telemedicine and pregnancy care. 

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 10 telehealth tips for an OB-GYN visit.

  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Renewal of determination that a public health emergency exists.

By Elizabeth Yuko, PhD
Elizabeth Yuko, PhD, is a bioethicist and journalist, as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Dublin City University. She has written for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and more.