Obstetrics and Gynecology: Understanding the Differences
There are now over 110,700 gynecologists and obstetricians across the US. Not many people realize there’s a difference between obstetrics and gynecology, though. Understanding the difference between OB and GYN can help you seek the help you need.
You can visit a women’s health care specialist based on your specific goals and concerns. Otherwise, you could visit the wrong physician.
What is the difference between OB and GYN doctors, exactly? Which specialist should you visit? Keep reading to find out.
After reading this guide, you can make a more informed choice with your health in mind.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about gynecology and obstetrics today!
Before we discuss the difference between obstetrics and gynecology, let’s look at each specialty separately. What exactly is obstetrics?
Obstetrics is a branch of medicine that focuses on surgical and medical care before, during, and after women give birth. This specialty focuses on caring for and maintaining the patient’s health during each stage of maternity.
These stages include:
- The postpartum period
Obstetricians are responsible for delivering babies. They can also provide therapies to help patients get pregnant. For example, some obstetricians specialize in offering fertility treatments.
Obstetricians can also offer guidance in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) for patients who deliver their babies prematurely.
These specialists will ensure patients have a healthy pregnancy and that they deliver a healthy baby.
You might need to consult an obstetrician if you experience any complications during your pregnancy, too. For example, you might require their expertise regarding:
- Placenta issues
- Signs of fetal distress
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Delivery through Cesarean section
Once you have the baby, your obstetrician can also help if you’re experiencing postpartum depression or other post-pregnancy issues.
It’s normal for people to use the terms “obstetrics” and “gynecology” interchangeably. However, there are differences between the two specialties.
A gynecologist specializes in caring for a woman’s reproductive health through all stages. They can offer care and treatment from the time a woman gets her first period. They’ll offer help all the way to a woman’s post-menopausal stage, too.
Gynecologists can offer treatment for any conditions that affect the reproductive system as well. These conditions might involve the:
- Fallopian tubes
GYN doctors can also perform screenings related to reproductive health. These screenings can include pelvic exams, pap smears, and breast exams. You might need to visit a GYN doctor for a tubal ligation or hysterectomy as well.
They can also provide human papillomavirus (HPV) shots.
You might consider visiting GYN doctors for advice regarding sexual matters. For example, you can discuss contraceptives and sexual practices during an appointment. They can offer advice regarding protection against sexually transmitted diseases, too.
In other words, you can visit a gynecologist for concerns related to female reproductive health that aren’t related to pregnancies.
A few related issues might include:
- Irregular menstruation
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cysts
- Cervical and vaginal polyps
- Prolapse of pelvic organs
- Cancers of the reproductive system
- Conditions that cause pain during sex
- Vaginal infections
If you become pregnant, however, you’ll need to visit an obstetrician.
Differentiating the Two
Between 2018 and 2028, the US will experience only a 2% increase in obstetricians and gynecologists.
In fact, many areas don’t have enough women’s health care physicians under either specialty. In 2020, there was a gap of 8,000 positions that remained unfulfilled in obstetrics and gynecology. The number could increase to a shortage of 22,000 positions by 2050.
The main difference between an OB and GYN is their focus. An OB focuses on pregnancies. GYN doctors, on the other hand, focus on all other fields of women’s health care.
When to Visit an OB/GYN
It’s best to treat potential health and medical issues by taking a preventative approach. Even if you’re healthy, consider finding a local OB/GYN. A specialist who focuses on both obstetrics and gynecology can cover your women’s health care needs.
You can schedule a preventative checkup once a year with a local specialist.
During your appointment, your OB/GYN can conduct evaluations or schedule any immunizations you might need. They can also request lab tests to determine if you have a specific condition.
Your doctor will determine which tests you need based on your age group.
You can also visit an OB/GYN to schedule a pelvic exam. Your doctor might recommend other screenings or tests based on your health and age.
You should also visit an OB/GYN if you notice any changes to your reproductive cycle. For example, these changes might include:
- Your first menstrual cycle
Some changes are normal. However, you should schedule an appointment if any changes are unexpected or unusual. For example, you might notice changes in the volume or frequency of your menstrual bleeding.
You should also visit your OB/GYN if you experience pain during intercourse or while urinating.
Reproductive Needs and Goals
You can also schedule a consultation appointment based on your reproductive goals. For example, you might need an appointment to discuss:
- Safe sex tips
- Birth control
- Treatment and prevention of pain during sex
- Urinary tract infections
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Planning a pregnancy
- Prenatal care
- Infertility treatment
Let your OB/GYN physician know about any new symptoms you begin experiencing, too.
For example, you might experience pain before or during menstruation. You can ask your OB/GYN questions about cramps, bleeding, or mood swings.
If you’re going through menopause, you can also discuss symptoms like hot flashes, bone loss, or low libido. Your OB/GYN can help with solutions like hormone replacement therapy or other treatment options.
Having a go-to OB/GYN will give you peace of mind. Even if you’re healthy, you can schedule annual appointments to assess your reproductive health. If there are any areas for concern, you can work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan.
Obstetrics and Gynecology: Differentiating OBs and GYN
To recap, what is the difference between obstetrics and gynecology? Obstetrics focuses on childbirth. Gynecology, on the other hand, focuses on a woman’s overall reproductive health.
You can visit your local OB/GYN to discuss your reproductive health needs or to plan a pregnancy.
Eager to schedule your next consultation appointment? We can’t wait to see you.
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