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What's an OBGYN and What Do They Do?

What's an OBGYN and What Do They Do?

Obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYN) are physicians who possess special knowledge, skills and professional capability in the medical and surgical care of the female reproductive system. It distinguishes them from other physicians and enables them to serve as consultants to other physicians and as primary physicians for women. Over the years of practice, each obstetrician-gynecologist builds upon this broad base of knowledge and skills and may develop a unique type of practice. Such diversity contributes to high-quality health care for women. Resident education in obstetrics-gynecology must include four years of accredited, clinically-oriented graduate medical education. Moreover, it must be focused on reproductive health care and ambulatory primary health care for women, including health maintenance, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, consultation, and referral.

What is Obstetrics?

Obstetrics is the branch of medicine related to medical and surgical care before, during, and after a woman gives birth. Obstetrics focuses on caring for and maintaining a woman’s overall health during maternity.

This includes:

  • pregnancy
  • labor
  • childbirth
  • the postpartum period

OB-GYNs can conduct office visits, perform surgery, and assist with labor and delivery. Some OB-GYNs provide services through a solo or private practice. Others do so as part of a larger medical group or hospital.

What is Gynecology?

Gynecology is the branch of medicine that focuses on women’s bodies and their reproductive health. It includes the diagnosis, treatment, and care of women’s reproductive system.

This includes the:

  • vagina
  • uterus
  • ovaries
  • fallopian tubes

This branch of medicine also includes screening for and treating issues associated with women’s breasts. Gynecology is the overarching field of women’s health from puberty through adulthood. It represents most of the reproductive care you’ll receive during your lifetime. If you become pregnant, you’ll need to go to an obstetrician.

Obstetrics and Gynecology as a Career

Obstetrics and gynecology is a broad and diverse branch of medicine, including surgery, management of the care of pregnant women, gynecologic care, and primary health care for women. Most OB/GYNs are generalists and see a variety of medical conditions in the office, perform surgery, and manage labor and delivery. Office practice consists of providing women with examinations and identifying gynecologic problems. OB/GYNs typically evaluate infertility, abnormal uterine bleeding, leiomyomato, pelvic masses, pelvic organ prolapse, abnormal Pap smears, pelvic pain, breast disorders, and urinary incontinence. Office ultrasound is performed for both obstetrics and for gynecologic conditions. Some generalists provide considerable primary care in addition to the typical gynecologic procedures.

What conditions do OB-GYNs treat?

OB-GYNs evaluate and treat a wide variety of conditions. What you see them for may depend on your age, health, and reproductive goals.

You may see an OB-GYN about:

  • abnormal bleeding
  • genital itching
  • urinary incontinence
  • urinary tract or vaginal infections
  • breast disorders
  • hormonal disorders
  • infertility

It is projected that between 2010 and 2020, the number of physicians and surgeons practicing in the United States will grow by 24 percent. Women of the baby boom generation will still require the services of gynecologists as they age. The "echo boom" of baby boomers' children and grandchildren are another demographically significant group, and they're just entering their childbearing years. This should ensure strong employment prospects for OB-GYNs for the foreseeable future.