What is the Difference Between Obstetricians and Gynecologists?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
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.

Obstetricians and gynecologists both typically deal with aspects of the female reproductive system, but there are a few basic differences between the two kinds of specialists. In most cases, obstetricians care for women during pregnancy, as well as immediately following the delivery of the baby during the postpartum period. On the other hand, gynecologists usually provide preventive care and treatment when it comes to issues with the female reproductive system. This often includes birth control, Pap smears, and management of menstrual irregularities. Some doctors are considered both obstetricians and gynecologists, or OB/GYN, while others specialize in just one of the fields.

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.

When a woman faces menstrual irregularities, she is typically referred to a gynecologist. For example, periods that are unusually painful may need to be diagnosed and treated, which the typical gynecologist can do. A menstrual period that is missing completely may also be investigated by this type of doctor, and often requires a pregnancy test to rule out the possibility of this result. While a gynecologist usually administers the test, the woman is typically referred to an obstetrician if it is positive. Of course, since some doctors act as both obstetricians and gynecologists, many women are able to keep the same physician before and during pregnancy.

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 woman who is trying to prevent pregnancy, and is having trouble choosing between obstetricians and gynecologists, should typically select the latter. This is because a gynecologist is often an expert at helping women decide which type of birth control is best for them. In addition, this kind of doctor also usually offers testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and can provide information on how to prevent them. Additionally, most women need to go to a gynecologist for their annual exam to screen for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and other reproductive health issues. If there is a need for a hysterectomy, this is the specialist to go to, as well.

A speculum is a common tool used by gynecologists.
A speculum is a common tool used by gynecologists.

On the other hand, women who are looking to become pregnant, or who already are, should see an obstetrician. This is the doctor who can officially confirm the pregnancy if this has not already been done through a gynecologist. Additionally, pregnant women can expect to see this kind of physician at least once a month for most of the pregnancy, as ultrasounds, fetal heart monitoring, and screenings for diseases and chromosomal abnormalities are typically offered by most obstetricians. This is usually the doctor who will be present during labor and delivery, and should also typically offer a postpartum check-up afterward to make sure that the new mother is healing correctly. Women who plan to become pregnant, and do not want to switch doctors, may consider browsing specialists who are listed as OB/GYNs, meaning that they are both obstetricians and gynecologists.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • A diagram of a healthy ovary and one with cysts, which a gynecologist can help with.
      By: Alila
      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.
      By: goodluz
      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.
      By: Aliaksandr Dobysh
      An obstetrician provides medical care for pregnant women until delivery and the postpartum checkup.
    • A speculum is a common tool used by gynecologists.
      By: casanowe
      A speculum is a common tool used by gynecologists.
    • Gynecologists are medical doctors who specialize in women's reproductive system health, including birth control, pap smears, and management of menstrual irregularities.
      By: Zsolnai Gergely
      Gynecologists are medical doctors who specialize in women's reproductive system health, including birth control, pap smears, and management of menstrual irregularities.
    • An OB/GYN specializes in both obstretrics and gynecology.
      By: JackF
      An OB/GYN specializes in both obstretrics and gynecology.
    • Women who plan to become pregnant but don't wish to change doctors may consider a specialist trained in both obstetrics and gynecology.
      By: Syda Productions
      Women who plan to become pregnant but don't wish to change doctors may consider a specialist trained in both obstetrics and gynecology.
    • Gynecologists are medical doctors who specifically see women to help diagnose and treat a variety of health-related issues, including fertility, cancer and incontinence.
      By: endostock
      Gynecologists are medical doctors who specifically see women to help diagnose and treat a variety of health-related issues, including fertility, cancer and incontinence.