Obstetrics and gynecology is a medical specialty that focuses on the care of women. Obstetrics focuses on childbirth, providing prenatal care and pregnancy support along with post-partum care, while gynecology is geared towards general female healthcare, with a focus on the female reproductive organs. A specialist in obstetrics is called an obstetrician, while a specialist in gynecology is a gynecologist.
Although these two specialties are lumped together because they both deal with caring for women, obstetrics and gynecology are very different. Many physicians who study these specialties ending up focusing on one or the other, and there are a number of subspecialties as well, including maternal-fetal care, in which an obstetrician manages a high-risk pregnancy, and family planning and reproductive endocrinology, the study of the hormones related to the reproductive system.
Casually, a practitioner might be called an ob/gyn. Many ob/gyns are women, although many talented male physicians work in this discipline as well. Because the specialty deals with sensitive female issues, some patients prefer to work with female medical professionals, especially those who are concerned about modesty and propriety. In rural areas, basic women's healthcare services may be offered by general practitioners, who lack specific training but can still offer needed services to their patients.
Medical practice as an ob/gyn is incredibly varied. Many find their work very rewarding, since it involves helping women to live healthy, active lives. The varied subspecialties allow physicians to focus on issues that range from geriatric gynecology to reconstructive surgery. Obstetrics and gynecology also carries its fair share of interesting medical puzzles and challenging cases, and while some specialists may look down on this discipline, it is actually extremely demanding.
A doctor who wants to work in this discipline must first complete four years of medical school, followed by a residency. If he or she wants to focus on a subspecialty like gynecological surgery or infertility treatment, an additional residency is required. Unfortunately for people interested in obstetrics, malpractice insurance rates in the field are very high, due to the risks inherent in this profession. This is especially true for maternal-fetal care providers, since they handle extremely dangerous pregnancies with a high potential for complications.