Skip Navigation

What kind of care is included in obstetrical & gynecological health care?

Skip sharing on social media links

Obstetrical medical care covers a range of women’s reproductive health needs, including1,2:

  • Preconception care. A woman considering pregnancy should visit a health care provider specializing in pregnancy even before she becomes pregnant. During a preconception checkup, the health care provider will explain to the woman how a healthy diet, lifestyle and environmental risk factors, and medications affect growth and development of a fetus during the early weeks of pregnancy. During a preconception evaluation, the health care provider likely would recommend certain nutritional supplements, especially folic acid (a B vitamin). Women who avoid certain risks before getting pregnant are more likely to have healthy infants.3
  • Prenatal care or pregnancy care. Prenatal care is the care a woman receives during pregnancy, which typically lasts about 40 weeks or just more than 9 full months. During pregnancy, obstetrical care includes guidance on nutrition, blood pressure monitoring, exercise, and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Obstetricians also offer advice on what to expect during the birth process and on basic skills for caring for an infant.
  • Labor and delivery. Health care providers specializing in obstetrics will help women determine when labor begins and when labor should be induced. These health care providers also can provide pain relief.
  • Postpartum care. Obstetrical health care providers also provide care for the new mother in the 6-week period following the delivery.

Gynecologic care includes1:

  • Well-woman care. Preventive obstetrical health care services and guidance for females is recommended beginning between the ages of 13 and 15 years old, including screening, evaluation and counseling, and immunization against certain diseases. Well-woman visits should occur each year.
  • Regular gynecological exams and Pap tests. A girl’s first gynecological exam includes a physical exam and an external genital exam. A pelvic exam may be needed if the girl is experiencing abnormal bleeding or pain. The health care provider will also advise her about immunizations needed to protect against disease caused by bacteria and viruses. Beginning at age 21, a female’s gynecological exams also include a Pap test to check for abnormal changes in the cervix that could potentially lead to cancer. The frequency of Pap tests ranges from every year to every 5 years, depending on a woman’s health history, the results of prior Pap tests, her age, and the presence of other risk factors.

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012). Well-woman care: Assessments & recommendations. Retrieved June 12, 2012, from External Web Site Policy (PDF - 197 KB) [top]
  2. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. (2011). Having a baby. Frequently asked questions. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from External Web Site Policy (PDF - 258 KB) [top]
  3. 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]

BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research