What’s The Difference Between Obstetrics and Gynecology?

Published on 11/30/20

Many women refer to a general profession in reproduction and pregnancy as OB/GYN. And many people think OB/GYN and gynecology are the same. Which they are not. An OB/GYN is the combination of two specialties – obstetrics and gynecology. Gynecologists specialize in solely gynecology. Although a physician can specialize in both medical careers, there are differences between the two professions and careers. 

Women would see a different physician based on her ever changing needs throughout life. Based on conditions and issues, a woman may see one or the other for a multitude of different reasons. 

So what’s the difference? Although an OB/GYN is considered one specific specialty, it actually encompasses two distinct fields. 

  • Gynecology – GYN – involves the care of all women’s health issues
  • Obstetrics – OB – involves the care during pre-conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately after delivery. 

What is Obstetrics?

A career in Obstetrics is the specialty of providing care for women before, during, and after birth. It is the examination of both the mother and baby. It is the plan for conception to the overall wellness of mother and fetus during pregnancy. As well as any interventions that are required to ensure the safety and healthy of the mother during her first, second, third trimester and delivery. 

It also covers postpartum care with the assistance and supervision of an obstetrician. 

What is Gynecology?

Gynecology mainly focuses on a woman’s overall reproductive health. This is detailed information on her reproductive system and needs throughout the everchanging stages of a woman’s life. These physicians evaluate a woman’s evolution, address concerns, and prescribe treatments and preventatives to maintain the health of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and breasts, in addition to vaginal health. It is the overall care of a woman’s health, with or without pregnancy involved. Female healthcare at its optimal.

Obstetrics

An obstetrician oversees a woman’s entire journey and all aspects of pregnancy from pre-natal care and postnatal care. An obstetrician is trained to deliver babies and provides fertility treatments to help pregnancy along. As well as provide guidance through situations like premature labor into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and able to deliver a healthy baby. 

Obstetricians are also trained to handle pregnancy complications, such as:

  • Ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus grows outside of the uterus
  • Signs of fetal distress, in which the fetus is not doing well for various reasons
  • Placenta issues
  • Preeclampsia
  • Delivery through Cesarean section

In addition to helping you before, during and after pregnancy, an obstetrician can also help you after if you are dealing with issues such as postpartum depression.

These physicians can help in specialized care of a pregnant woman, her unborn child, and trained to handle a laundry list of potential complications that could happen during pregnancy and the birthing process. This could be a multitude of situations such as:

  • Ectopic pregnancy: a pregnancy in which the fetus grows outside of the uterus
  • Fetal distress: signs before and during childbirth that may signal the fetus may not be doing well
  • Placenta issues
  • High blood pressure: often a precursor to preeclampsia, a potentially serious condition
  • Cesarean section

Guiding a mother through her entire pregnancy experience safely includes other services offered by obstetricians that could be (but not limited to):

  • Fertility treatment
  • Fetal diagnostic procedures
  • NICU care (this may also be handled by a pediatrician)

Gynecology

A gynecologist specializes in the overall reproductive health of a woman from her first period or teenage years all the way to post-menopause. This includes any conditions or issues that may affect a woman’s reproductive system such as the:

  • Cervix
  • Vagina
  • Uterus
  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes

These are diagnosed and treated by a gynecologist. 

Gynecologists are trained in performing recommended screenings such as:

Pap smears

Breast exams

Pelvic exams

As well as perform:

Hysterectomies

Tubal ligations

HPV (human papillomavirus) shots

Cervical cancer screenings

Gynecologists also provide guidance on responsible exual practices, protection against sexually transmitted disease and contraceptives like birth control pills and shots and IUDs. 

A gynecologist is your go-to physician for any non-pregnancy issue related to female reproductive health.

A gynecologist may diagnose and treat issues, such as:

  • Irregular menstruation
  • Vaginal infections
  • Conditions that cause pain during sex
  • Cancers of the reproductive system
  • Prolapse of pelvic organs
  • Endometriosis
  • Cervical and vaginal polyps
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids

It’s common that some physicians wind up specializing in both gynecology and obstetrics. This allows the physician to address a spectrum of healthcare needs and provide a variety of care for all patients. These physicians are called OB/GYNs.

Women normally start to see a gynecologist regularly when they become sexually active or with the onset of puberty if they decide so all the way through menopause. These regular appointments are important for the overall women’s health. Even leading up to deciding to become pregnant and scheduling an obstetrics appointment for further care. 

They are also important for a woman’s health for standard exams such as pap smears and pelvic exams, diagnosis and treatment for a spectrum of conditions:

  • Cancer of the ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina or fallopian tubes
  • Prolapse: a condition in which the pelvic organs slip forward or downward within the body, often after menopause in women
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Painful intercourse
  • Irregular menstruation or pain during menstruation.
  • Other menopause-related diseases
  • Endometriosis: a painful condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus
  • Cervical and vaginal polyps
  • Fibroids: compact tumors that develop in the uterus
  • Ovarian cysts

Gynecologists can also perform surgical procedures on reproductive organs. Some of the most common procedures for women can include:

  • Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus
  • Oophorectomy: Removal of the ovaries
  • Salpingectomy: Removal of the fallopian tubes
  • Tubal ligation: Permanent birth control surgery
  • Cone biopsy: Removal of precancerous cells from the cervix after a Pap test
  • Labiaplasty: Surgical reshaping of external genitalia

Training

For future students of OB/GYN careers, a complete residency-training program must be completed after medical school graduation. These programs focus on health in all stages of pregnancy. This can be as early as pre-conception to post-pregnancy. The students residents learn about everything from issues around prenatal diagnosis, genetics, counseling, and more. 

This also includes the in-depth instruction on:

  • Reproductive endocrinology 
  • Infertility
  • Family planning
  • Ultrasonography
  • Gynecologic oncology
  • Gynecologic surgery

Most residents who complete the program can go straight into practice, however residents can decide to subspecialize and continue with, what they call, fellowship training that lasts anywhere from two to four years. In a primary subspecialty such as:

  • Maternal-fetal medicine
  • Reproductive endocrinology
  • Infertility
  • Urogynecological surgery
  • Gynecologic oncology
  • Family planning
  • Adolescent gynecology
  • Breast health

Practice

If a new physician chooses both obstetrics and gynecology, they may choose to practice in one field or both. 

In gynecology, physicians do not:

  • Physicians who focus on gynecology do not deliver babies or treat pregnant women. They conduct cancer screenings, treat urinary tract issues, and more.

In obstetrics, physicians do not:

  • Physicians who focus on obstetrics do not treat health issues outside pregnancy.

Obstetrics and gynecology mean physicians do it all and more:

  • OB/GYNs focus on both areas. Some OB/GYNs act as primary care physicians, in place of an internist or family practitioner.

Careers

Considering OB/GYNs practice in both settings, they can be found in private practices, community practices, hospitals, and schooling. For physicians who focus solely on obstetricians, they normally work many unpredictable hours because of the inconsistent nature of pregnancies and delivery. 

No matter where a new physician may decide to practice, there are plenty of prospects for a fulfilling career in either or field. 

How Are They Similar?

Both fields, obstetrics and gynecology, focus on women’s health. Obstetrics and gynecologists normally work closely together to ensure the complete and total care for women’s reproductive needs and pregnancy. This helps ensure they can recommend care from a respected specialist in the opposite career. Complimenting each other and, in turn, each woman’s needs. 

Women who are pregnant would not go to see a gynecologist, rather, they would see a gynecologist when they’re not pregnant for overall reproductive health. When she becomes pregnant, it’s correct to set up a visit with an obstetrician versus a gynecologist unless your physician practices both medicines as an OB/GYN. A woman would only see an obstetrician pre-conception and during and through pregnancy, unlike a gynecologist who is a physician seen regularly throughout a woman’s entire reproductive life. 

How Do You Choose An OB/GYN?

Normally a referral from a family member, friend, or current physicians would be a safe way to start finding a obstetrician and gynecologist that fits your current and future needs. 

Consider your potential OB/GYN by asking about his or her experience in the field, their stance on conversations about things like birth control, and certifications or education throughout their field.

When deciding on a physician and their practice, ask questions like:

  • Do you accept my health insurance?
  • At which hospital do you have admitting privileges?
  • What are your hours?
  • If you are not available, who will cover for you?

Making sure you feel comfortable with your new physician is extremely important. 

Call Rosh’s Team of Physicians in Obstetrics and Gynecology In NYC

Many women only visit their gynecologist for birth control, a routine Pap test, or a vaginal infection, but gynecology embraces more than routine health care.

At Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine, the team specializes in women’s wellness and provides expert diagnosis and treatment of all reproductive health issues no matter how routine or complex. They welcome women of all ages, so if you have any questions or it’s time to schedule an annual exam, call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City or book an appointment online. Talk to our team by phone or book an appointment online to get started. Call one of our six convenient NYC locations or schedule a video consultation online today. Come visit your NYC Maternal and Fetal Medicine Specialists for the safest possible care for you and your unborn child.