What is Obstetrics and Gynecology? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Providing female health care, with an emphasis on reproductive organs, is the focus of gynecology.
Providing female health care, with an emphasis on reproductive organs, is the focus of gynecology.

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.

Prenatal care and pregnancy support are the primary functions of obstetrics.
Prenatal care and pregnancy support are the primary functions of obstetrics.

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.

A diagram of a healthy ovary and one with cysts, which a gynecologist can help with.
A diagram of a healthy ovary and one with cysts, which a gynecologist can help with.

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.

A gynecologist helps women lead healthy lives through regular check-ups and preventative care, and an obstetrician helps women have healthy pregnancies.
A gynecologist helps women lead healthy lives through regular check-ups and preventative care, and an obstetrician helps women have healthy pregnancies.

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.

An obstetrician provides medical care for pregnant women until delivery and the postpartum checkup.
An obstetrician provides medical care for pregnant women until delivery and the postpartum checkup.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Providing female health care, with an emphasis on reproductive organs, is the focus of gynecology.
      Providing female health care, with an emphasis on reproductive organs, is the focus of gynecology.
    • Prenatal care and pregnancy support are the primary functions of obstetrics.
      Prenatal care and pregnancy support are the primary functions of obstetrics.
    • A diagram of a healthy ovary and one with cysts, which a gynecologist can help with.
      A diagram of a healthy ovary and one with cysts, which a gynecologist can help with.
    • A gynecologist helps women lead healthy lives through regular check-ups and preventative care, and an obstetrician helps women have healthy pregnancies.
      A gynecologist helps women lead healthy lives through regular check-ups and preventative care, and an obstetrician helps women have healthy pregnancies.
    • An obstetrician provides medical care for pregnant women until delivery and the postpartum checkup.
      An obstetrician provides medical care for pregnant women until delivery and the postpartum checkup.
    • An OB/GYN specializes in both obstretrics and gynecology.
      An OB/GYN specializes in both obstretrics and gynecology.
    • People who work in medical obstetrics are often called OB-GYNs.
      People who work in medical obstetrics are often called OB-GYNs.
    • Gynecologists are medical doctors who specifically see women to give advice on, as well as diagnose and treat, a variety of health-related issues, including fertility, cancer and incontinence.
      Gynecologists are medical doctors who specifically see women to give advice on, as well as diagnose and treat, a variety of health-related issues, including fertility, cancer and incontinence.