What Is the Difference Between an Obstetrician and Gynecologist?

In the United States, there were 6.2 million pregnancies reported in a single year. Of these, only 4 million resulted in a live birth.

Whether you’re pregnant or want to avoid pregnancy, visiting a doctor can make all the difference. However, how do you know what type of doctor to visit? In most cases, it can depend on your current condition or long-term healthcare goals.

In some cases, you might need to visit an obstetrician and gynecologist. 

In other cases, you might only need to visit one. What’s the difference between the two, and how do you know which to visit? Keep reading our guide to learn everything you need to know before scheduling your first appointment.

By understanding the difference, you can visit the doctor most qualified to help you into womanhood!

What is an Obstetrician?

Obstetricians specialize in caring for pregnant women and their unborn babies. They’re also trained to handle potential complications that occur during either pregnancy or the birthing process. A few of these situations can include:

  • An ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fetus is growing outside of the uterus
  • Fetal distress, which indicates the fetus isn’t doing well before or during childbirth
  • Placenta issues
  • High blood pressure, which sometimes indicates pre-eclampsia
  • Cesarean section (c-section)

Obstetricians are also able to perform ultrasounds at certain times throughout the pregnancy. If needed, ultrasounds are performed more frequently to monitor any complications. Ultrasounds ensure the fetus is healthy and developing on schedule. 

Many obstetricians also help guide mother’s through the entire process. This can include conception, delivery, and the postpartum period. 

Obstetricians also offer:

An obstetrician will make sure the mother and child receive the best possible care during labor and delivery. They’ll try to accomplish both without any complications. If needed, these doctors are able to intervene quickly and safely. 

After the baby is delivered, an obstetrician focuses on the mother’s health as well as the child’s. The doctor will help both transition into the routine of daily life without complications that were once common 100 years ago. In fact, many postpartum complications still occur in third world countries. 

Obstetricians don’t treat diseases. Rather, they only treat health concerns that are related to pregnancy. 

As obstetrics advances, doctors are able to ensure pregnancy and childbirth are safe and predictable for mother and child. 

What is a Gynecologist?

The titles obstetrician and gynecologist are often used interchangeably. However, there are a few distinct differences between the two. 

While obstetricians are concerned with delivery, gynecologists are concerned with the female reproductive system. This includes the onset of puberty through menopause. Women usually start visiting a gynecologist when they become sexually active or when they begin puberty.

To maintain your health, it’s important to visit a gynecologist for regular exams. At a gynecologist’s office, these exams can include Pap tests and pelvic exams. These doctors are also trained to diagnose and treat:

  • Cancers of the ovaries, cervix, uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes
  • Prolapse, which causes pelvic organs to slip within the body
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Pain during menstruation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Menopause-related diseases
  • Endometriosis
  • Cervical and vaginal polyps
  • Fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts

Gynecologists are also trained to perform surgical procedures that involve reproductive organs. These can include:

  • Hysterectomy (removing the uterus)
  • Oophorectomy (removing the ovaries)
  • Salpingectomy (removing the fallopian tubes)
  • Tubal ligation (birth control surgery)
  • Cone biopsy (removing precancerous cells from the cervix)
  • Labiaplasty (surgical reshaping of external genitalia)

Gynecologists are also equipped to help patients with infertility issues and contraception.  

When it comes to pregnancy, a gynecologist will confirm the pregnancy, then pass the patient to an obstetrician for care.

What’s the Difference?

A gynecologist specializes in women’s reproductive health. An obstetrician, on the other hand, cares for women while they’re pregnant. They also deliver babies and provide care after the baby is born. 

Many patients look for a doctor who is both an obstetrician and a gynecologist.

If you need both forms of care, you’re likely looking for an Ob-Gyn. Also known as obstetrician-gynecologists, these doctors are trained to help women conceive and deliver a baby. These doctors possess the knowledge and skills to care for the female productive system and associated disorders.

As an Ob-Gyn, doctors cover a variety of healthcare concerns for women. They can perform primary care, continuity of care, and surgical services as well.

The difference between an obstetrician and a gynecologist is that these capabilities are split in half. An Ob-Gyn, on the other hand, combines the two practices to provide overall care for women. Here’s another way to look at it:

Gynecologists don’t deliver babies or treat pregnant women. Instead, they conduct cancer screenings, treat urinary tract issues, and study the female reproductive system.

Obstetricians don’t treat health issues outside of pregnancy. Instead, they focus on fertility, conception, and the birthing process.

An Ob-Gyn focuses on both areas. Some also choose to act as primary care physicians. 

Ob-Gyn: Combining An Obstetrician and Gynecologist

An Ob-Gyn will also help you deal with important health issues, including:

  • Birth control
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause

Ob-Gyns are also trained to:

  • Screen for cancer
  • Treat infections
  • Perform surgery for pelvic organ or urinary tract problems
  • Provide general medical care for women

There are four subspecialty fellowships under the Ob-Gyn umbrella. These include:

  • Gynecologic oncology
  • Reproductive endocrinology and infertility
  • Maternal-fetal medicine
  • Female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery

After a four-year core residency program, a doctor can complete one of these fellowships within three years.

You can find an Ob-Gyn in many settings, including hospitals, academic settings, private practices, and community practices. They often work long hours in order to accommodate the uncertainty of pregnancies and deliveries. 

There are about 18,590 doctors who chose to become obstetrician-gynecologists, combining the best of both professions! 

The Distinction Between Doctors: The Difference Between an Obstetrician and Gynecologist

Understanding the difference between an obstetrician and gynecologist can help you find the physician you need. That way, you can receive the right kind of care—whether it’s for you or your unborn child. Either way, make sure to visit your doctor to maintain your health.

Explore our recent Health Programs posts today for more helpful guides.



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