Are you pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and wanting to find out more about what role an obstetrician plays in pregnancy? Obstetricians are primary caregivers to women during their pregnancies. Their chief responsibility is ensuring that patients deliver healthy babies. Today, most doctors who practice obstetrics have received training as general obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYN).
An obstetrician is not a gynecologist
An obstetrician is primarily concerned with the care and health of the pregnant mother and her child. Outside of the birthing process, obstetricians do not perform many surgical procedures.
A gynecologist, on the other hand, is focused on the non-pregnancy aspects of a woman's reproductive health. They can perform surgical procedures on reproductive organs.
What is an obstetrician trained to do?
Pregnancy and birthing complications
Obstetricians specialize in caring for pregnant women and their unborn babies. They are trained to handle a variety of complications or situations that could occur in pregnancy or the birthing process, such as :
- Ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy in which the fetus grows outside of the uterus
- Fetal distress, which is signs before and during childbirth that may signal the fetus may not be doing well
- Placenta issues
- High blood pressure, which is often a predictor of pre-eclampsia, a potentially severe condition in pregnancy
- Cesarean or C-section
An obstetrician can guide a mother safely through the entire experience from conception to delivery to the postpartum period.
Reproductive health and surgery
Obstetricians also provide other services associated with reproductive health, such as fertility treatments, fetal diagnostic procedures and NICU care. They can also perform surgical procedures, such as cone biopsies (removing precancerous cells from the cervix) and labiaplasties (the surgical reshaping of the vulva).
High-risk pregnancy and prenatal care
Women initially see obstetricians for their routine prenatal care. The initial appointment occurs approximately eight weeks after your last menstrual period. You’ll then see the doctor roughly once a month after that.
Additionally, obstetricians treat women with high-risk pregnancy during and after pregnancy.
You can have a high-risk pregnancy if you are pregnant and:
- You have a chronic health condition
- You are over age 35
- You are carrying multiple babies
- You have a history of miscarriage, pre-term labor or cesarean delivery
- You engage in certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking
- You develop complications during pregnancy that affect you or the infant
Other procedures performed by obstetricians
The procedures and surgeries obstetricians perform differ from ones that gynecologists do. In addition to routine appointments and labor and delivery services, obstetricians will also perform:
- Cervical cerclage
- Dilation and curettage
- Vaginal or cesarean delivery
- Episiotomy, which is a cut at the opening of the vagina to aid vaginal delivery
- Forceps and vacuum deliveries
The obstetrician attends deliveries, vaginal and otherwise. If you need induction or cesarean delivery, an obstetrician can oversee the procedure. They will also perform any related necessary surgical procedure.
The bottom line
If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, having an obstetrician who you can trust is vital. Be sure to choose a board certified or eligible board obstetrician highly skilled in special needs pregnancies.
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