A women’s health practice often has obstetricians, gynecologists, and OB/GYNs on their roster of physicians.
These three different titles may be confusing for medical students considering careers in women’s health. These titles exist because OB/GYN combines two distinct fields, obstetrics and gynecology, which may be practiced separately or in tandem.
Here is a brief overview of the differences between obstetricians, gynecologists, and OB/GYNs.
A Focus on Pregnancy and Childbirth
In general, OB/GYNs, physicians who specialize in both obstetrics and gynecology, focus on women’s health issues both during and outside pregnancy and childbirth. Obstetricians typically focus only on health issues related to pregnancy and childbirth while gynecologists take on the remaining spectrum of health issues affecting women.
Core Residency Training
Residents planning to become obstetricians, gynecologists, or OB/GYNs must first train in both obstetrics and gynecology. Trainees typically focus on health in all stages of pregnancy, from preconception to post-pregnancy, and learn about a variety of subjects, including genetics, diagnostics, ultrasonography, reproductive endocrinology, infertility, family planning, gynecologic surgery and gynecologic oncology.
Separate Fields of Practice
Having trained in both obstetrics and gynecology, new physicians may choose one field or practice both fields as OB/GYNs.
Obstetricians care for women during pre-conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately after delivery. They often work long and unpredictable hours to accommodate the uncertain nature of pregnancy and delivery.
Gynecologists treat and diagnose diseases related to the female reproductive system during all stages of life, from adolescence to menopause. They conduct cancer screenings, treat urinary tract issues, and more. Gynecologists usually do not deliver babies or treat pregnant women.
Read about the work of one physician who focuses on the gynecological issue of sexual health →
OB/GYNs focus on the comprehensive range of issues involved in women’s health. Some OB/GYNs even act as primary care physicians.
Regardless of the field, demand for women’s health practitioners is growing, so students considering any of these fields have plenty of prospects for a fulfilling career.
By Deborah Abrams Kaplan