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Health Care Providers: Obstetricians & Gynecologists

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What Is Obstetrics & Gynecology?

Obstetrics (ahb-STEH-triks) & gynecology (guy-nuh-KAHL-uh-jee) is the area of medicine that treats conditions and problems related to female reproductive health. It is one medical field, with two specialty areas:

  • Obstetrics is medical care before and during pregnancy, childbirth, and right after a baby is born.
  • Gynecology is medical care of all female health issues.

What Is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist?

An obstetrician-gynecologist (ahb-steh-TRIH-shun guy-nuh-KOL-uh-jist), often called an OB-GYN, is a doctor who specializes in female health before, during, and after the childbearing years.

  • Gynecologists specialize in female reproductive health.
  • Obstetricians give care during and after pregnancy and deliver babies.
  • OB-GYNs provide medical care in both areas.

After medical training in both obstetrics and gynecology, a doctor may focus on just one field or practice both as an OB-GYN.

Why Would Someone Need One?

Obstetrician-gynecologists provide care for:

OB-GYNs can:

  • give birth control counseling and care
  • put in or remove an IUD
  • give the HPV vaccine
  • do gynecology surgical services
  • do pregnancy testing, diagnosis, and referrals for services
  • do rapid HIV testing
  • offer sexuality/reproduction health education and adolescent sexual health counseling (including for kids and teens with special needs)

What Is Their Training?

Obstetrician-gynecologist training includes:

  • 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
  • 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
  • 4 years of training in an obstetrics and gynecology residency

They also might have:

  • expertise in a subspecialty area (for example, pediatric obstetrics-gynecology) from training in a fellowship program. A “fellow” is a doctor who undergoes more specialty training after completing medical school and residency training. 

Good to Know

A women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) is another good option for this kind of care. A WHNP is an advanced-practice nurse who focuses on reproductive, obstetric, and gynecological health. They can do exams, diagnose conditions, prescribe medicines (including birth control), create a treatment plan, and provide counseling.

Date reviewed: September 2022