Which specialist doctor are you supposed to be making an appointment with — an obstetrician, or a gynaecologist? But hold up, aren’t they the same type of doctor that deals with pregnant women?
While both obstetricians and gynaecologists are specialist doctors associated with the care of females, however, these two doctors focus on varying fields of the female reproductive system.
Here are the key differences between an obstetrician and a gynaecologist.
What is an obstetrician?
An obstetrician is a medical specialist that primarily provides medical care for pregnant women and their newborn. This encompasses the full pregnancy journey, from prenatal care, to labour and delivery, as well as postnatal care .
Besides ensuring that you’re on the right track during your pregnancy, an obstetrician also looks after the overall health and well-being of mother and baby. They will monitor the baby’s growth, as well as detect and handle any pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, placenta issues, foetal discomfort and more. These also include complications that arise during labour and after giving birth .
Unlike a gynaecologist, an obstetrician helps to deliver your baby, both vaginally and through caesarian section (aka C-section). However, the support of an obstetrician doesn’t just end after birth. They follow up on the health of mother and child post-delivery, to ensure that there aren’t further complications .
When should you see an obstetrician?
You should make an appointment with an obstetrician as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Your obstetrician will be the go-to person for your pregnancy queries, who also watches over you and your baby, ensuring that you have a smooth pregnancy.
What is a gynaecologist?
A gynaecologist (or gynae for short), is a medical specialist that looks after the female reproductive system. This means that should you have a medical condition that affects the vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes or cervix, a gynaecologist is the doctor to look for .
Medical conditions that relate to the female reproductive system are plenty. The conditions that a gynaecologist can advise on include:
- Irregular menstruation
- Vaginal infections
- Ovarian cysts
- Uterine fibroids
- Urinary conditions
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Cancers in the female reproductive system
Besides diagnosing and treating certain conditions, a gynaecologist can also help conduct reproductive organs-related examinations, such as the pap smear, breast examination or pelvic examination. They can also dish out advice on sexual matters, including contraceptives, fertility treatments (IVF, IUI, etc.), testing for or the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
While they don’t handle deliveries or pregnancy complications, gynaecologists can perform surgical procedures on reproductive organs, such as hysterectomy, myomectomy, cone biopsy, oophorectomy, dilation and curettage, tubal ligation and more .
As you reach menopause, a gynaecologist can also best advise on menopause management, particularly if it affects your well-being.
When should you see a gynaecologist?
For anyone with a female reproductive system, you can consult a gynaecologist when you have a non-pregnancy related, female biology condition — be it during puberty, or even after menopause. At times, you could be referred to a gynaecologist during your visit to a regular doctor, depending on your medical problem.
A hybrid: The Obstetrician-Gynaecologist
The line drawn between an obstetrician and gynaecologist lies between whether you’re pregnant, or not.
Now that you know the difference between an obstetrician and a gynaecologist, you can also consider consulting an obstetrician-gynaecologist (aka ob-gyn) instead — a hybrid between the two fields.
An ob-gyn is a doctor that specialises in women’s health and the female reproductive system, having been trained in both obstetrics and gynaecology. They are able to examine, diagnose, treat, conduct procedures and provide post-surgery care for female biology-related conditions. This allows them to cater to the full range of female sexual and healthcare needs .
As such, an ob-gyn can provide healthcare services throughout a woman’s years, from puberty, to pregnancy, menopause and beyond. You can also visit an ob-gyn for reproductive matters, such as birth control, STDs and fertility treatments like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) .
When should you visit an obstetrician, gynaecologist or obstetrician-gynaecologist?
Look to these specialist doctors for guidance when you :
- Need help getting pregnant, or require some help getting there
- Are pregnant (hooray!)
- Require help planning for your pregnancy
- Face pregnancy complications
- Face urinary incontinence
- Have menstruation disorders
- Have menopause concerns
- Have discomfort or pain in your reproductive organs
If you’re unsure, just visit your regular doctor and they would refer you to an obstetrician, gynae or ob-gyn accordingly.
Planning for your pregnancy
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