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What is the Difference Between Obstetricians and Gynecologists?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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Obstetricians and gynecologists both typically deal with aspects of the female reproductive system, but there are a few basic differences between the two kinds of specialists. In most cases, obstetricians care for women during pregnancy, as well as immediately following the delivery of the baby during the postpartum period. On the other hand, gynecologists usually provide preventive care and treatment when it comes to issues with the female reproductive system. This often includes birth control, Pap smears, and management of menstrual irregularities. Some doctors are considered both obstetricians and gynecologists, or OB/GYN, while others specialize in just one of the fields.

When a woman faces menstrual irregularities, she is typically referred to a gynecologist. For example, periods that are unusually painful may need to be diagnosed and treated, which the typical gynecologist can do. A menstrual period that is missing completely may also be investigated by this type of doctor, and often requires a pregnancy test to rule out the possibility of this result. While a gynecologist usually administers the test, the woman is typically referred to an obstetrician if it is positive. Of course, since some doctors act as both obstetricians and gynecologists, many women are able to keep the same physician before and during pregnancy.

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A woman who is trying to prevent pregnancy, and is having trouble choosing between obstetricians and gynecologists, should typically select the latter. This is because a gynecologist is often an expert at helping women decide which type of birth control is best for them. In addition, this kind of doctor also usually offers testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and can provide information on how to prevent them. Additionally, most women need to go to a gynecologist for their annual exam to screen for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and other reproductive health issues. If there is a need for a hysterectomy, this is the specialist to go to, as well.

On the other hand, women who are looking to become pregnant, or who already are, should see an obstetrician. This is the doctor who can officially confirm the pregnancy if this has not already been done through a gynecologist. Additionally, pregnant women can expect to see this kind of physician at least once a month for most of the pregnancy, as ultrasounds, fetal heart monitoring, and screenings for diseases and chromosomal abnormalities are typically offered by most obstetricians. This is usually the doctor who will be present during labor and delivery, and should also typically offer a postpartum check-up afterward to make sure that the new mother is healing correctly. Women who plan to become pregnant, and do not want to switch doctors, may consider browsing specialists who are listed as OB/GYNs, meaning that they are both obstetricians and gynecologists.

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