Obstetricians are trained to provide comprehensive care during pregnancy, doing everything possible to ensure a healthy delivery for both the mother and child.

About Obstetrics

Obstetrics is a field of medicine that offers primary care for mother and child during pregnancy. The field of obstetrics (sometimes abbreviated to OB) is often combined with the field of gynecology to form obstetrics & gynecology (OBGYN), but these physicians choose to practice exclusively in the field of obstetrics. Doctors trained in obstetrics provide care during the three stages of pregnancy: prenatal (before childbirth), during childbirth, and postnatal (after childbirth).

During the prenatal period, obstetricians play a vital role in keeping the mother and child healthy. During this time, the obstetrician will provide patient education to the parents, allowing them to make healthy choices regarding both diet and lifestyle, as these factors directly affect the health of the child. Additionally, many preventive screenings and tests are performed throughout the three stages of pregnancy, which are divided into three trimesters. During the first trimester, any or all of the following tests may be performed: cystic fibrosis carrier screenings, ultrasounds, first-trimester blood screenings, and chorionic villus sampling (CVS, which screens for genetic disorders), among others. During the second trimester, the obstetrician may perform additional ultrasounds, glucose screenings, maternal blood tests, and amniocentesis tests for genetic conditions, among others. During the final trimester, the obstetrician may perform bi-weekly to weekly checkups to ensure the pregnancy is progressing in a healthy manner, in addition to any other screenings the OB deems necessary.

When it comes time to deliver the baby, the obstetrician will often work with a team to ensure a healthy delivery for both the mother and child. In addition to traditional vaginal childbirth, the obstetrician is trained to perform deliveries via caesarean section, where an incision is made in the mother’s uterus and abdomen to deliver the baby. Caesarean section deliveries are often performed when the OB has determined that a traditional vaginal delivery would put either the mother or child at a higher risk for complications. After successful delivery of the child (or children), the OB will provide some degree of postnatal care. This can include traditional care for physical symptoms or conditions, but may also include care for the mental wellness of the mother.

Obstetrics Education & Training

Because obstetricians are also trained as gynecologists, and choose to focus their practice in the field of obstetrics, they are trained in both areas. Initially, the obstetrician is required to complete an MD or DO medical degree from an accredited institution before going on to complete a four year residency program in obstetrics/gynecology. During the residency, the doctor becomes acquainted with all of the different tests, procedures, and knowledge that a practicing OBGYN is capable of performing.

As an OBGYN resident, the doctor will treat women for issues regarding health during pregnancy (obstetrics), in addition to reproductive health during the non-pregnant state (gynecology). The resident will hone the various techniques utilized when monitoring pregnancies throughout all three trimesters, during delivery, and during the postnatal period of care. As a resident, the doctor will treat patients under the supervision of experienced, licensed OBGYNs and will gain all of the requisite skills necessary to practice on their own. In addition to the provision of general care, the physician will also learn the various surgical techniques found in both specialties, such as performing a caesarean section.

After completing the necessary training requirements, many obstetricians seek board certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). To practice medicine, the obstetrician must seek a medical license in each state they provide care.