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Obstetrics: Condition Information

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What is obstetrics/gynecology?

Obstetrics/gynecology is the medical field that manages a broad range of women’s health needs during pregnancy, childbirth, and the recuperative period following delivery. The field of gynecology focuses on the care of women’s reproductive systems, including the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Gynecological care also includes regular checkups on a woman’s reproductive health.

Obstetrical and gynecological care is offered by a range of health care providers. An obstetrician (pronounced ob-sti-TRISH-uhn) receives specialized training in the area of the female reproductive system and surgical care. Some physicians practice only obstetrics whereas other physicians may choose to practice only gynecology (pronounced gahy-ni-KOL-uh-jee)—the branch of medical science that focuses on the health maintenance and diseases of the female reproductive system. Many obstetricians/gynecologists, also known as OB/GYNs, choose to practice both specialties and offer a variety of care.1 Many family medicine providers offer gynecologic care. Besides physicians, other types of health care providers are involved in women’s reproductive health, including nurse practitioners, certified midwives and certified nurse-midwives, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, and others.

Women may have a need to consult a subspecialist for particular health concerns. For example:

  • Reproductive endocrinologists deal with fertility issues.
  • Maternal-fetal medicine specialists deal with high-risk pregnancies.
  • Gynecological oncology focuses on cancers of women’s reproductive organs.
  • The field of urogynecology is for the treatment of women with pelvic floor disorders, such as urinary or fecal incontinence, or prolapse (bulging or falling) of the vagina, uterus, or bladder.

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012). Good health before pregnancy: Preconception care. Frequently asked questions. Retrieved June 13, 2012, from External Web Site Policy (PDF - 305 KB) [top]

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