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What is Clinical Obstetrics?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Clinical obstetrics is the study of pregnant women and of the fetus, as related to practicing care of both. Any doctor’s service that offers pregnancy care is said to be offering clinical obstetrics, and it is hoped these doctors have thoroughly studied this subject (as most of them have) in order to be able to offer the best care to patients. There are actually several types of doctors who might practice clinical obstetrics. These include obstetricians and gynecologists (OBGYNs), family practice doctors. Nurse midwives, too, may provide obstetrical care.

Most of the doctors practicing in this field get their extensive training by first going to medical school. After completing school, they will do a four-year obstetrics and gynecology residency. This prepares them to practice both obstetrics and other medicine as it relates to the study and knowledge of the female reproductive system. Some doctors may most choose to practice one or the other of these fields, and others doctors split their practice between treating obstetrical patients and those patients who need unrelated gynecological care. As a variant, some OBGYNs now work outside the field of clinical obstetrics and gynecology, and become primary care doctors for their patients, though others prefer not to do this.

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In obstetrical care, there are two equally important areas that must be understood. One of these is the mother’s body and considerations can include the health of the uterus, the signs that a pregnancy is progressing as normal, the signs when it is not, and the indications of health issues and/or complications that may arise. Equally important is the developing fetus: the indications of fetal issues, the signs that it is thriving, and the signs that it isn’t. Since there are two bodies contained in one, clinical obstetrics must also look at the way in which these two bodies interact with each other, and whether problems with one might relate or cause problems with the other.

Clinical obstetrics is far more than looking for what it is normal, it’s also ruling out abnormalities and being aware of any condition in either of the two patients being cared for that might alter the health or well being of one or both of them. It should be stated, that unless otherwise requested by the mother, the mother is the primary patient. Not all obstetricians see the fetus as endowed with any form of rights unless the mother grants them.

Obstetrics is an interesting field that often has happy endings, when doctors get to deliver the babies of their patients. Many people are moved to consider clinical obstetrics as a specialty because they are warmed by this thought. It should be noted that not all endings are this happy. An obstetrician may be called upon to the end the life of a baby if a mother’s health is at risk, to inform excited parents of severe health problems in a fetus, and to sometimes deliver stillborn children. There is a flip side, and it’s one that those easily emotionally devastated should consider.

From a professional standpoint, the person interested in practicing clinical obstetrics may want to look at some of the other factors surrounding this specialty. First, it means unpredictable hours; babies do not show up on schedules. Second, clinical obstetricians pay some of the highest medical malpractice insurance fees in the business, greatly reducing annual salary. Family practitioners, who can also deliver babies, may pay lower fees. On the other hand, this field is one that many doctors and other health professionals find highly rewarding.

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