Obstetrics and Gynecology are strongly related in the sense that both deal with the female reproductive system. However the two disciplines differ greatly in definition, their history and their development into the specialized professions they are today.
Obstetrics involves the care of the female reproductive system when the female is in the gestation period, during childbirth and in the postnatal period. It involves monitoring how the female reproductive system during the gestation period so as to identify any anomalies that may complicate childbirth and endanger the life of the mother and/or the baby. This is a profession that in the last century has evolved from midwifery which was largely ignored as a medical profession but was seen as ‘dirty’ work, to become one of the most essential and advanced branches of medicine today. Although a separate discipline most obstetricians are also gynecologists.
Gynecology is the branch of medicine that deals with the well-being of the female reproductive system. Unlike Obstetricians who only deal with women who are pregnant, gynecologists deal with all females regardless of their age or physical condition and are expected to provide solutions to a wide range of medical conditions that affect the female reproductive system and even perform surgery when required.
Before the empowerment of women, both professions were neglected by the then male dominated medical field and usually gynecology was usually done by a general practitioner while obstetrics was done by a midwife. Both groups were usually not equipped with the necessary equipment and the complete knowledge to perform the sensitive tasks that both professions required and the results were seen in the extremely high infant mortality rates and the frequent occurrence of Puerperal fever among mothers which was often fatal in the 19th Century. At the same time, female were often more likely to die from reproductive health complications and diseases like STDs as compared to men (a phenomenon still seen in Africa today) due to the mainly male medical fraternity being averse to touching female reproductive parts. Eventually as public concern became paramount and medical science advanced, many doctors started to take an interest in the problems females faced when it came to their reproductive organs and thus Obstetrics & Gynecology became major medical professions.
As mentioned earlier though both professions deal with the female reproductive organs, obstetrics deals with pregnant women while gynecology deals with any medical problem concerning the female reproductive organs. Obstetrics covers 4 main fields: Prenatal care, Childbirth, Postnatal care and Pregnancy complications.
Prenatal care involves checking up on the mother’s medical history and physical condition though an antenatal. Fetus screening is done to check for any anomalies though imaging and various lab tests are done. Most prenatal checkups involve blood tests that determine whether the fetus is developing as it should and whether any anomalies are present. A complete blood count, screening for various diseases that may be a threat to the fetus like HIV, Hepatitis and gonorrhea is done.
Childbirth care involves ensuring that the mother delivers in the safest way possible and that any complications that may arise are and that a healthy baby is born. An obstetrician may induce labor if it is necessary or accelerate it with the hormone oxytocin, provide pain relief or perform a cesarean section.
Postnatal care involves making sure that the mother recovers from childbirth and the complications that usually come as a result from it like a lose bladder or bleeding from the uterus are taken care of. The baby is also checked for signs of any complications which should be taken care of at this stage.
There are many complications that occur during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period like ectopic pregnancies that can cause internal bleeding, a prolapsed cord which can strangle a fetus and a placental abruption which can lead to the mother bleeding to death. Such complications are usually what keep an obstetrician busy trying to prevent.
Gynecology covers all what obstetrics covers in addition to other complications affecting female genitalia which is why while all gynecologists are obstetricians, not all obstetricians are gynecologists. Non natal complications gynecologists deal with include:
- Vaginal infections, whether caused by imbalances in the Vagina or by Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Cancer of the various reproductive organs, the most common being cervical cancer
- Gynecologists perform a large number of surgeries and operations on the reproductive organs so as to correct anomalies or for sterilization purposes. Some of these include:
- Hysterectomy-Sterilization by removing the Uterus
- Tubal ligation-the fallopian tubes are tied or sealed to prevent the egg from reaching the uterus thus sterilizing the female
- Laparoscopy-a procedure done to reduce abdominal pain.
- Cervical Excision which is done to prevent cervical cancer before it starts.
In order to become a gynecologist or an obstetrician, one has to have completed undergraduate studies in Medicine then enroll in a Postgraduate program in either of the disciplines. Both professions pay quite well with salaries being above $200,000 a year in the United States and slightly lower in the European Union. Although complex and hands on disciplines that involve close human contact, Both Obstetrics & Gynecology are highly rewarding professions.
The OBGYN Centre offers premium pregnancy care and delivery services in the heart of town. You have our complete assurance that we will do our utmost to ensure a safe, uneventful and happy outcome for you and your child. Our antenatal services are also uniquely supplemented with 3D/4D fetal imaging to enhance the pregnancy experience for the family.