There are a number of different career options in obstetrics and gynecology. A person who decides to pursue a career in this field can become a primary care provider, specialize in gynecologic oncology, or focus on the reproductive system. Some doctors may choose to become obstetricians, who deliver babies and help women throughout their pregnancies.
A number of doctors decide to pursue careers in primary care obstetrics and gynecology. These doctors are commonly called OB-GYNs. These doctors see female patients on a regular basis. An OB-GYN will screen a patient for STDs, perform PAP smears to check for early signs of cervical cancer, and perform breast exams. She may also prescribe contraceptive methods to a patient or insert contraceptive devices. Some OB-GYNs must deal with patients who are victims of rape or abuse and should be able to handle such situations emotionally.
Doctors who want to focus on pregnancy and childbirth specifically may decide to become obstetricians. Obstetricians focus exclusively on delivering babies and helping women manage their pregnancies. They usually assist women during the period immediately following childbirth as well. Doctors can also become gynecologists and focus on diseases of the reproductive system without dealing with pregnancy and childbirth.
A doctor who decides to further specialize in obstetrics and gynecology may become a gynecologic oncologist. An oncologist diagnoses and treats patients with cancer. Gynecologic oncologists treat patients with cancer of the vagina, uterus, and other female reproductive organs. To become an oncologist, a doctor must complete the standard four years of medical school in the United States, a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology, and then an additional two to four years as a fellow in an oncology program at a hospital.
Doctors in obstetrics and gynecology who wish to study reproduction and fertility may become reproductive endocrinologists. A reproductive endocrinologist studies the glands and hormone systems in the body and can help infertile couples conceive. Like gynecologic oncologists, reproductive endocrinologists must complete an additional two to years as a fellow in an endocrinology program after their residencies and four years of medical school.
Careers in obstetrics and gynecology can be found in private practice and in public clinics. A doctor may choose to work in a multi-specialty practice, meaning she works among other doctors who specialize in different areas, such as otolaryngology or podiatry. Some doctors may be employed as faculty at medical schools, where they see patients and instruct students.