Picking the Right Baby Doctor: The OB/GYN

Ultrasound 2
Creative Commons License photo credit: Parker Michael Knight

Also known as an OB/GYN, an obstetrician is a health care provider that handles a number of different women’s health services. This includes things like your annual Pap test, for example. An OB/GYN is trained to handle complications that may happen during pregnancy, to deliver babies, and to help care for the mother during the postpartum period.

An OB/GYN provides many services, most of which aren’t actually related to pregnancy. Specifically, here are the kinds of services that you can expect to receive from an OB/GYN:

  • Prenatal care for both you and your baby
  • Care for you and your baby during labor and delivery
  • Annual exams including a Pap Smear as well as exams for breast cancer
  • Counseling regarding contraceptive use
  • Treatment for STDs
  • Further diagnosis and treatment for an abnormal Pap test
  • Treatment for certain women’s medical conditions like endometriosis
  • Diagnosis and treatment for infertility
  • Management of menopause

There are specific requirements that a doctor must have in order to be approved by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). Make sure that your doctor meets those certification requirements before you trust her with the care of you and your baby during pregnancy. These include things such as graduating from one of the approved medical schools, a four-year residency in OB/GYN and related areas, and passing an ABOG test.

While you don’t need an OB/GYN to have a baby, many women choose to have one instead of having a midwife or a Nurse Practitioner. OB/GYN doctors have specific training that will help in certain situations. Specifically, here are some of the things that an OB/GYN can offer that other medical professionals, no matter how competent they are, probably cannot offer:

  • The knowledge, training and experience to handle specific conditions like placenta previa or preeclampsia
  • Access to specific types of medical testing and technology that others may not have
  • Surgical training to perform a C-section if it becomes necessary

The main reason that some women may prefer not to use an OB/GYN is that they want a pregnancy that’s less invasive. If you have a low risk pregnancy, you should be fine with a midwife service or nurse practitioners, but it’s nice to know that the OB/GYN is available in case there is a medical need.

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