What is the difference between a gynaecologist and an obstetrician?

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Feminine anatomy can be a rather obscure subject. There is such modesty and reticence displayed about these areas that even the words describing certain parts can be censored as being ‘obscene’ or ‘vulgar’ in the media or on social networks. With all this disinformation, it is no surprise that quite often people often do not really understand the distinction between a gynaecologist and an obstetrician.

The basic difference is quite simple: gynaecologists specialise in the female reproductive system, while obstetricians specialise in fertility, pregnancy care and birth. Of course, there is a lot of overlap between the two disciplines and many doctors style themselves as ‘ob-gyn’ meaning that they work in both fields.

Do you need a private gynaecologist in London, or a private obstetrician in London? Let us examine one or two scenarios:

Let us say that you need a hysteroscopy. This is a procedure when a camera is fed through your cervix and into your womb to inspect the health of that organ, check for fibroids or polyps, look to find the cause of unduly heavy periods or to remove intrauterine devices. While an obstetrician certainly could perform these procedures, it is more likely that a gynaecologist would be the doctor in charge, simply because obstetricians tend to be visited by women who are already pregnant or trying to be so, whereas a gynaecologist would be visited for health issues, heavy periods or unexplained pain. So you can see from this that there is an overlap and that women who are trying to become pregnant could visit her obstetrician and be sent for a hysteroscopy, but that most issues that require the process would be as a result of a gynaecological check-up.

An alternative to a hysteroscopy, assuming that nothing can be seen, would be a laparoscopy. This is a type of surgery, rather than a fixed procedure, and is more colloquially known as ‘key-hole’ surgery. This means that instead of a large incision with all the attendant recovery time and risk, the surgeon makes two or three small incisions into the abdomen, inflates the area with gas and uses fine instruments on fibre optic filaments to take samples, make inspections and place implants. Recovery is vastly improved on regular surgery, with most people back to their regular routine in days rather than weeks, as before. A laparoscopy will almost always be at the remit of a gynaecologist rather than an obstetrician.

Finally, any issues to do with pregnancy, from the position of the baby just before birth to not being able to keep any food down in the early days, will fall under the obstetric umbrella.

Hopefully, now that you understand the difference between the two specialisms and the many areas in which they overlap, you will have more confidence when you are planning your next check-up, knowing which one your particular condition requires. Do contact us today if you need any further guidance.

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