Obstetricians and gynaecologists are both vital specialists in the field of women’s health, and often a doctor will specialise in both fields to provide their patients with a more comprehensive system of care.
While the two fields often work closely together and have some overlap, they are two different specialisations with distinct differences. Not every doctor will specialise in both, so it’s important to understand these differences.
This blog will help you understand the difference is between an obstetrician and a gynaecologist so you can have a better understanding of the medical specialities relating to women’s health.
What is obstetrics?
An obstetrician is a doctor that specialises in providing care before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth.
An obstetrician in a private maternity clinic will look after pregnant women for the entirety of their pregnancy journey, ensuring they have the best chance for a healthy mother and baby. In the public system, a pregnant woman may only see an obstetrician briefly or if issues or risks arise.
Obstetricians are trained to manage all types of pregnancy and births, including surgical procedures and interventions such as caesareans.
Some of the things an obstetrician will do include:
- Pre-pregnancy counselling
- Monitor health of mother and child, including routine tests and checks, ultrasounds and monitoring baby’s growth and position
- Provide you with all the necessary advice and information about your pregnancy
- Prepare you for labour and delivery
- Help you with your birth plan
- Assist during labour and birth process (deliver babies)
- Manage any complications and emergencies – either performing interventions themselves or directing other medical specialists on what needs to be done
- Perform interventions if complications occur during birth
- Postnatal checkups and support for the beginning stages of life with a child
An obstetrician primarily focuses on the health of mother and child for the whole pregnancy process. Many women form a strong bond with their obstetrician, and so if they are also qualified as a gynaecologist they may continue to see that doctor for other reproductive issues that occur during their life.
This more extensive knowledge can help provide more comprehensive care, and is often preferred by patients for this continuity of care.
What is gynaecology?
A gynaecologist is a doctor that went to medical school to specialise in women’s reproductive health.
A gynaecologist covers a much larger spectrum of women’s health issues than an obstetrician, including from puberty all the way through to menopause.
While they are trained to do simple procedures such as pap tests, in Australia you will often need a referral from a GP in order to see a gynaecologist, or you will need to book directly with a private clinic.
Some of the roles of a gynaecologist include:
- Fertility treatments and family planning
- Diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Assessing menstruation issues and irregular bleeding
- Guiding women through menopause
- Diagnosing and treating cervical cancer, and other cancers of the reproductive system
- Surgeries on reproductive organs and pelvic organs
- Assessing and treating prolapse, ovarian cysts and pelvic masses
- Assessing and treating Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis
You can read more about how a gynaecologist can support you here.
Obstetricians and gynaecologists are both integral to women’s health, and understanding their different roles can help you advocate for your health better.
Australian training to become an O&G
In order to become a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist (O&G) in Australia, the Fellowship of RANZCOG training program is the only pathway for medical practitioners.
Once a doctor has completed medical school and completed a few years as a junior doctor in public hospitals they may choose to go into a specialist field, such as O&G. This consists of 6 years of supervised training work in public hospitals along with clinical and theoretical examinations.
Most specialist O&Gs in Australia practice in both areas but some may choose to only practice obstetrics or gynaecology. Some specialists in O&G choose to go on to do further training. This is called subspecialty training and is even more specific to certain areas within O&G.
You can read more about FRANZCOG and what doctors need to achieve to become specialists here!
Sunshine Coast Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Dr Kelvin Larwood is a fully qualified specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist who operates private practices in Buderim and Noosa, Sunshine Coast.
Dr Kelvin has a special interest in surgery and has gained extra surgical skills and experience in laparoscopic, pelvic, vaginal prolapse and stress incontinence surgery. He continues to improve his skills so that he can offer his patients the most comprehensive care possible.
You can read more about Dr Kelvin’s services here.