An obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) is a medical professional specializing in the health of the female reproductive system. These experts are adept in both obstetrics and gynecology, enabling them to provide comprehensive care to women at all stages of life. Obstetrics involves care during pregnancy, including childbirth, while gynecology addresses a wide range of conditions affecting the female reproductive system, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and chronic pelvic pain.

The Scope of OB-GYN Services

OB-GYNs offer a vast array of preventive care services and procedures. Their expertise is crucial for maintaining reproductive health, managing pregnancy, and addressing various gynecological issues.

Preventive Care Services

  • Pap Smears: Screening for cervical cancer by collecting cells from the cervix.
  • STI Testing: Identifying sexually transmitted infections to ensure timely treatment.
  • Pelvic Exams: Examining the pelvic organs to detect abnormalities.
  • Ultrasounds: Using sound waves to create images of the pelvic organs and monitor pregnancy.
  • Blood Work: Conducting tests to monitor overall health and detect conditions such as anemia.

Pregnancy-Related Care

  • Prenatal Care: Monitoring the health of the mother and developing baby throughout pregnancy.
  • Labor and Delivery: Managing childbirth, including performing cesarean sections if necessary.
  • Postpartum Care: Providing care and support after childbirth.

Surgical and In-Office Procedures

OB-GYNs are skilled surgeons capable of performing various procedures:

  • Cesarean Sections: Delivering babies via surgical incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus.
  • Hysterectomy: Removing the uterus to treat conditions like fibroids or cancer.
  • Laparoscopy: Minimally invasive surgery to diagnose and treat pelvic conditions.
  • Fertility Treatments: Including egg retrievals for IVF or egg-freezing.
  • Pelvic Floor Repair: Correcting issues like prolapsed organs and incontinence.

Specializations within OB-GYN

Many OB-GYNs choose to further specialize, focusing on specific areas requiring additional expertise and training.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

These specialists manage high-risk pregnancies, ensuring the health and safety of both mother and baby. They handle complications such as preterm labor and gestational diabetes.

Reproductive Endocrinology

Experts in infertility, reproductive endocrinologists diagnose and treat fertility issues. They often perform procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and develop personalized treatment plans.

Gynecologic Oncology

Gynecologic oncologists focus on cancers of the female reproductive system, including ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers. They provide comprehensive cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment.

Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery

These specialists address disorders of the pelvic floor, including incontinence and prolapsed organs. They offer treatments ranging from physical therapy to surgical repair.

When to See an OB-GYN

It is recommended that women see an OB-GYN for various health concerns and routine check-ups. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises an initial visit between the ages of 13 and 15 to establish care and discuss health concerns.

Annual Well-Woman Visits

Women should have annual visits to monitor their reproductive health. These visits typically include:

  • Breast Exams: Checking for lumps or other changes that could indicate breast cancer.
  • Pap Smears: Regular screenings based on age and health history.
  • STI Testing: As needed based on sexual activity and risk factors.
  • Pelvic Exams: Routine exams to check for abnormalities.

Specific Health Concerns

Women should see their OB-GYN if they experience:

  • Pregnancy Symptoms: Confirmation and monitoring of pregnancy.
  • Menstrual Irregularities: Unusual bleeding or pain.
  • Infertility: Difficulty conceiving after one year of trying.
  • Pelvic Pain: Persistent pain that could indicate conditions like endometriosis.
  • Urinary Issues: Incontinence or frequent infections.

Path to Becoming an OB-GYN

Becoming an OB-GYN requires extensive education and training. The journey includes:

  1. Medical School: Four years of medical education, including two years of clinical rotations.
  2. Residency: Four years of specialized training in obstetrics and gynecology, where doctors gain hands-on experience.
  3. Board Certification: Passing rigorous exams to become certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  4. Continuing Education: Ongoing learning to maintain certification and stay updated with medical advancements.

 Trends and Changes

With over one in ten physicians in the United States now being D.O.s, this branch of medicine is expanding swiftly. In 2022 alone, more than 7,300 new D.O.s joined the healthcare workforce. This article delves into the reasons behind the growing preference for D.O.s in obstetrics and gynecology (Ob-Gyn) care, highlighting their unique approach and the benefits it offers to patients.

Understanding Osteopathic Ob-Gyns

What is an Osteopathic Ob-Gyn?

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine are distinguished by their holistic approach to healthcare. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) defines D.O.s as practitioners who utilize a "whole-person approach" to help patients prevent illness and injury. This means that instead of treating a specific disease, D.O.s focus on the overall health of their patients.

Osteopathic Ob-Gyns undergo four years of residency training in obstetrics and gynecology after completing medical school. They can further specialize by pursuing fellowships in subspecialties such as:

  • Maternal-Fetal Medicine
  • Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility
  • Gynecologic Oncology
  • Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery

Qualified providers can attain board certification and use the Fellow of The American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FACOOG) credential.

The Holistic Approach of D.O.s in Ob-Gyn Care

Integrative Care

D.O.s are trained to look beyond the symptoms and consider various factors that might contribute to a patient's condition, including environmental and lifestyle influences. This integrative approach involves combining conventional medical treatments with complementary therapies to promote overall wellness.

Comprehensive Training

D.O.s receive extensive training in the musculoskeletal system, gaining a deep understanding of how the body's bones, muscles, and nerves interact. This knowledge allows them to identify connections between symptoms and underlying conditions that other physicians might overlook. For example, they can see how an issue in one part of the body can affect another, a skill particularly beneficial in addressing complex reproductive health concerns.

Mind-Body Connection

In gynecology, the mind-body connection is critical. Many mood disorders manifest as physical symptoms, and D.O.s are adept at identifying these links. This holistic perspective is especially valuable in treating conditions such as infertility, high-risk pregnancies, and postpartum health issues.

Why Women Prefer D.O.s for Ob-Gyn Care

Personalized and Continuous Care

Women often choose D.O. Ob-Gyns because they provide a more personalized and continuous care experience. D.O.s maintain a patient-provider relationship throughout all life stages, offering a comfort level that is crucial during significant health events like pregnancy and postpartum care.

Non-Pharmaceutical Approaches

Patients appreciate that D.O.s are not quick to prescribe medications. Instead, they explore conservative, non-pharmaceutical techniques first. Osteopaths are trained in manipulative medicine, a skill involving about 200 hours of training. This technique includes manipulating the body's soft tissues to relieve pain, which can be particularly beneficial for chronic pelvic pain and pregnancy-related discomfort.

Holistic Pain Management

Manipulative medicine offers natural pain relief without the need for medication, a significant advantage for women experiencing pain during pregnancy or from chronic pelvic conditions. This approach aligns with many patients' preference for natural, less invasive treatment options.

What Physicians Need to Know About Patient Preferences

Choosing a women's health provider is a deeply personal decision. The growing demand for D.O.s reflects a broader shift towards recognizing the interconnectedness of mind and body in achieving optimal health and wellness. 

Paul Olzak, MBA, CPRP

Joining PracticeMatch in 2021, Paul supports Client Sourcing's proactive recruiting model that generates a robust prospect pool, creates an effective and efficient recruiting experience and identifies key metrics to ensure optimal performance for the client. Paul has a commitment to learning, development and passion for building a team of recruiting professionals to leverage their national footprint which benefits its client organizations and their candidates. Prior to joining the PracticeMatch team, Paul served as Medical Staff Development Officer at University Hospitals, Lake Health Region in Cleveland, Ohio.