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What is obstetrics?

Obstetrics is the branch of medicine related to medical and surgical care before, during, and after a woman gives birth. Obstetrics focuses on caring for and maintaining a woman’s overall health during maternity.

This includes:

  • pregnancy

  • labor

  • childbirth

  • the postpartum period

OB-GYNs can conduct office visits, perform surgery, and assist with labor and delivery. Some OB-GYNs provide services through a solo or private practice. Others do so as part of a larger medical group or hospital.

What is gynecology?

Gynecology is the branch of medicine that focuses on women’s bodies and their reproductive health. It includes the diagnosis, treatment, and care of women’s reproductive system.

This includes the:

  • vagina

  • uterus

  • ovaries

  • fallopian tubes

This branch of medicine also includes screening for and treating issues associated with women’s breasts.

Gynecology is the overarching field of women’s health from puberty through adulthood. It represents most of the reproductive care you’ll receive during your lifetime. If you become pregnant, you’ll need to go to an obstetrician.

When should you see an OB-GYN?

The best way to treat health and medical issues is with preventive care. Women who are healthy and aren’t experiencing any reproductive health issues should get a preventive checkup once per year.

During this visit, your doctor may conduct evaluations, immunizations, or lab tests for certain diseases. Your age group generally helps your doctor determine which tests to order. Your doctor will also perform a pelvic exam. Depending on your age and health, your doctor may request additional tests or screenings.

In addition to your annual checkup, you should visit your OB-GYN when changes in your reproductive cycle occur. These changes may be routine, planned, or expected. These changes include:

  • your first menstrual cycle

  • pregnancy

  • perimenopause

  • menopause

These changes could also be abnormal, unusual, or unexpected. This includes:

  • changes in the volume or frequency of menstrual bleeding

  • unusual cramping

  • pain during urination

  • pain during intercourse

When deciding whether to visit your OB-GYN, consider your age and reproductive goals. If you don’t already have an OB-GYN, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

For example, if you’re sexually active, you may visit your OB-GYN for:

  • birth control, contraception, or sterilization

  • safe sex tips

  • advice on preventing or treating sexually transmitted infections or HIV

  • vaccination against the human papilloma virus

  • treatment and prevention of pain during sex

  • abnormal vaginal discharge

  • urinary tract infections

If you are or wish to get pregnant, you may visit your OB-GYN for:

  • help planning for your pregnancy

  • prenatal care

  • infertility treatment

  • advice on diet

  • labor and birthing options

  • genetic testing and screenings

  • advice on breast-feeding

  • postpartum depression

If you experience pain or difficulty before or during menstruation, you may visit an OB-GYN with questions about:

  • easing cramps

  • irregular or abnormal bleeding

  • mood swings

  • advice about premenstrual syndrome

  • cysts and fibroids

  • pelvic support problems

If you’re going through menopause or you’ve gone through menopause, you may visit your OB-GYN to address:

  • a low libido

  • vaginal dryness

  • hot flashes

  • bone loss

  • incontinence

  • hormone replacement therapy

Some women choose to visit their OB-GYN in lieu of a primary care physician. Not all OB-GYNs are comfortable serving in this capacity, though. You should talk to your doctor about whether they feel they’re the right person to serve your general health needs.