Gynecologist vs obstetrician: what is the difference? When should you schedule an appointment with one or the other? Both provide care for women, and both can work at an OBGYN. At South Lake OBGYN in Clermont, FL we have an expert team of gynecologists and obstetricians who care about your health. Read on, and we will explain the difference between these two related specialties.
Gynecologist vs Obstetrician
While both obstetricians and gynecologists specialize in women’s’ care, the biggest difference is that the work of an obstetrician pertains mostly to pregnancy, while gynecologists treat other health issues related to a woman’s reproductive organs.
Obstetricians provide care during all the stages of pregnancy, including pre-conception, pregnancy, labor, and post-pregnancy. They can also deliver babies. Gynecologists treat issues related to menstruation, sexually transmitted diseases, hormonal disorders, incontinence, injuries, and chronic conditions such as endometriosis.
Differences in Training
Both gynecologists and obstetricians complete four years of medical school and a four-year residency program in which they learn about pregnancy, fertility, genetics, adolescent gynecological care, and adult gynecological care. After training in both fields, they either choose to specialize in one or the other or they decide to practice both.
Individuals who want to specialize in an area relating to either obstetrics or gynecology go on to complete a fellowship. Examples of sub-specialties covered during fellowships include maternal-fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology, infertility, and gynecologic oncology.
A medical professional who practices both obstetrics and gynecology is referred to as an OBGYN. The clinic where they practice can also be called an OBGYN.
The Role of an Obstetrician
Obstetricians Provide Pre-Pregnancy Care
Some studies have shown that going to an obstetrician before you become pregnant can reduce the chance of miscarriage and promote a healthier gestation. For this reason, many patients seek an obstetrician’s care and advice before they start trying to conceive.
For those individuals, an obstetrician can provide a pre-pregnancy checkup. This screens for illnesses and conditions that might affect the pregnancy, including:
- German measles
- Chicken pox
- HIV and other STDs
- Thyroid problems
- Parvovirus B19
- Genetic diseases
During pre-pregnancy care, an obstetrician will recommend lifestyle changes before and/or during pregnancy. These can include:
- Maintaining a good diet
- Not smoking
- Avoiding caffeine
- Not eating sushi
- Going to the dentist regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Taking certain supplements, like folic acid
In the case of a patient who requires vaccination updates, an obstetrician will probably try to have them completed before the pregnancy. Similarly, if underlying health issues can be improved prior to a patient becoming pregnant, an obstetrician will recommend the measures necessary to do so.
Obstetricians Care for Pregnant Patients
Obstetricians work with their patients to ensure they have the healthiest pregnancies possible. They will take extra measures to ensure the health of women over age 35. Part of their role includes advising patients on how certain exercises, medications, and dietary choices can promote the development of a healthy child.
During routine check-ups, obstetricians monitor the health of the baby and the mom-to-be. They perform ultrasounds, measurements, and other tests. They address the most common issues pregnant women face, including morning sickness, leg pain, back pain, and heartburn.
In preparation for labor, obstetricians can provide information as to what a patient can expect. They can direct expectant moms and dads to labor classes. Often, they coordinate care among a team of professionals that includes nurses, labor coaches, and midwives.
Obstetricians Support Patients During Labor
When a patient goes into labor, an obstetrician can monitor her progress. He or she will continue to direct the team of medical professionals providing support. Sometimes, the obstetrician will deliver the baby (or babies). Other times, depending on how the hospital divides its responsibilities, a different doctor may do so.
Obstetricians Care for Patients After the Delivery
After a patient delivers a baby, the obstetrician and/or support team will monitor her recovery.
When Should You See an Obstetrician?
If you are planning to become pregnant, you can preemptively seek the guidance of an obstetrician to help with the pre-pregnancy phase. This can be especially important for women over age 35, women who have had miscarriages in the past, women with a history of complicated pregnancies, and women who are at risk of complications.
If you have any of these conditions or another health issue, you should consider seeing an obstetrician before you become pregnant:
- High blood pressure
For many women, their first contact with an obstetrician is in response to pregnancy symptoms. If you experience signs of pregnancy, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment. These signs include:
- A missed period
- Aversions to certain kinds of food
- Heightened sensitivity to smells
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen breasts and breast tenderness
- Frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
- Physical changes such as the color of the vagina or a softening of the cervix
Some patients might prefer to work with a family doctor or a midwife. However, for some patients, including those who are over age 35 and those who are at risk for complications during their pregnancy, seeking the expertise of an obstetrician is highly recommended. If a patient develops problems while seeing a family doctor or midwife, she is usually referred to an obstetrician.
How Should You Choose an Obstetrician?
Most people begin their search for an obstetrician by checking which providers are covered by their insurance. Once you have identified a prospect, you should meet him or her for a conversation. Most obstetricians will talk with you and answer your questions before agreeing to provide treatment.
You should ask questions that pertain to issues that are important to you, such as pain management, the induction of labor after a 39-week gestation, and the possibility of a vaginal delivery if you have had a C-section in the past.
If you have specific issues that might complicate your pregnancy, you may want to search for an obstetrician with specialized training in the area of care that pertains to you.
Finally, go with your gut. It is important that your obstetrician makes you feel comfortable and provides a pleasant environment for you.
The Role of a Gynecologist
Gynecologists Treat Diseases Relating to Women’s Reproductive Organs
If a patient is experiencing symptoms of an infection or a sexually transmitted disease, her gynecologist will perform an examination, provide a diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment.
A gynecologist can also treat pelvic inflammatory disease, among other issues. In addition to addressing problems with the reproductive organs, a gynecologist can treat urinary tract infections and other problems pertaining to the body’s elimination of wastes.
Gynecologists Respond to Pain and Injuries
Patients who experience discomfort in their pelvis or reproductive organs can seek help from a gynecologist. Depending on his or her specialty, a gynecologist can also address injuries and provide emergency care pertaining to these regions of the body.
Gynecologists Support Healthy Menstruation, Fertility and Hormonal Balance
Gynecologists can provide care for patients who have issues relating to their menstrual cycles, including amenorrhea and severe PMS. Gynecologists often perform fertility testing and provide counseling for women who are having trouble conceiving.
For more complicated instances of infertility, the gynecologist will refer the patient to another specialist. Once a patient reaches menopause, a gynecologist can help her with any issues that might arise.
Gynecologists Treat Cancer and Benign Conditions of the Reproductive Organs
Gynecologists can provide screening and care for cancers that affect the reproductive organs and breast tissue. Benign conditions gynecologists treat include vulvar ulcers, vaginal ulcers, ovarian cysts, breast tumors, and fibroids. Premalignant conditions like endometrial hyperplasia and cervical dysplasia also fall in their realm of care.
What Other Conditions Do Gynecologists Treat?
- Abnormalities of the reproductive tract
- Problems with the tissues that support the pelvis and reproductive organs
- Issues relating to sexuality
- Endometriosis and other chronic conditions
- Issues pertaining to pregnancy
Some gynecologists provide general health care in addition to focusing on the reproductive organs. Many of their patients choose to see them for internal medicine and other issues that are not necessarily unique to women. These can include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Psychiatric disorders
- Thyroid disorders
- Instances of domestic violence
When Should You See a Gynecologist?
Part of the role of a gynecologist is to provide routine check-ups. In this way, they ensure their patients maintain good health. In the event that the routine examination reveals a problem, it can be addressed quickly.
Patients usually begin to see a gynecologist every year when they are 13 to 15 years old. You should schedule a special appointment to see a gynecologist if you experience discomfort or concerning symptoms.
Gynecologist might see some patients more than once a year if they are providing care to manage chronic diseases and/or ongoing conditions.
Usually, a patient will continue to see the same gynecologist for many consecutive years. This establishes a trusting relationship between the doctor and the patient.
How Should You Choose a Gynecologist?
Like searching for an obstetrician, finding the right gynecologist for you is mostly a matter of identifying which ones are covered by your insurance and assessing your level of comfort.
The gynecologist you choose should make you feel at ease so that you can talk about sensitive topics pertaining to your health. You should choose someone who shares your values so that you are on the same page. If you need care for a specific condition, like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, you can check to see which providers specialize in that given area.
Gynecologist vs Obstetrician: A Review
It is easy to understand why many people confuse obstetricians and gynecologists. Both are medical providers who can work at an OBGYN. Both provide care for women’s’ reproductive organs, and both can take measures to help their patients through pregnancy.
Obstetricians and gynecologists follow the same educational trajectory through medical school and into their residency programs. Typically, an individual will study medicine that relates to both specialties before he or she chooses one. In fact, some practitioners work in both fields.
The most important differences between gynecologists and obstetricians are:
- Obstetricians often have more advanced training when it comes to pregnancy and delivery
- Obstetricians can coordinate care in the event of a complicated or risky pregnancy
- Obstetricians can deliver babies
- Gynecologists can treat diseases, infections, abnormalities, and other issues that are not related to pregnancy
- Gynecologists provide yearly check-ups and routine care for patients
- Gynecologists can treat hormonal imbalances, injuries, and other non-pregnancy problems
- Gynecologists can treat chronic conditions and diseases, including cancer
Gynecologist vs Obstetrician: Find the Best
If you would like to establish a trusting relationship with a medical professional who specializes in women’s’ care, contact South Lake OBGYN in Clermont, FL. We are happy to share more information about our practice and explain how we can provide you with the care you deserve.