What is gynaecology and obstetrics?

Gynaecology and obstetrics are the studies of the female reproductive system. Read on to find out more.

What’s the difference between gynaecology and obstetrics?
Gynaecology normally means treating women who aren’t pregnant, while obstetrics deals with pregnant women and their unborn children, but there is lots of crossover between the two. For example, women may be referred to gynaecologists in the earlier stages of pregnancy, and obstetricians later in their term.
What do gynaecologists and obstetricians do?
Gynaecologists and obstetricians use a range of surgical and medical procedures. Gynaecological procedures include:
  • Laparoscopy: the diagnosis and removal of cysts and infections from the ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • Cone biopsies: the removal unhealthy cells from the cervix to prevent cervical cancer
  • Hysterectomies: the removal of a woman’s uterus
Gynaecologists are also involved in smear testing programmes, which are designed to detect cervical cancer and are free on the NHS to women over the age of 25.

Obstetric procedures include:
  • Caesarean (or C) section: surgically cutting a baby out from its mother’s womb to avoid problems during labour
  • Cervical sutures: using tape to strengthen a woman’s cervix to prevent miscarriages
  • External cephalic version (ECV): turning the baby around in the womb so it is in the correct position for birth
Obstetricians also test foetuses for symptoms of conditions like Down’s Syndrome using ultrasound and techniques like chorionic villus sampling.

Gynaecologists and obstetricians often work closely with midwives, nurses and other medical specialists such as urologists, who treat bladder problems, and endocrinologists, who deal with hormone production.
What training do I need?
To become a qualified obstetrician or gynaecologist, doctors choose obstetrics and gynaecology as a specialism. They need at least a degree in medicine and two years of foundation training before they can start. Postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynaecology is overseen by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and their membership (MCROG) course lasts for seven years. The RCOG also offer the diploma (DRCOG) certificate for GPs and other doctors with a specific interest in women’s health.
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