What is Obstetrics?
Obstetrics is a subject that deals with the female reproductive system. It covers pregnancy and its associated procedures and complications.
In the scope of obstetrics, the wellbeing of a pregnant mother as well as the delivery and healthy outcome is important.
Obstetricians work closely with neonatologists and paediatricians to seek ways to care for newborn babies to reduce infant mortality and the spread of disease.
Who is an Obstetrician?
An obstetrician is one who has graduated from medical school and completed a four-year residency program in obstetrics and gynaecology. In the residency program, the obstetrician is trained in pre-pregnancy health, pregnancy, labour and childbirth, health problems after childbirth, genetic counselling and genetics.
A board-certified obstetrician has completed the residency training and passed rigorous oral and written exams.
What does an Obstetrician do?
An obstetrician is a doctor whose area of specialisation is in pregnancy, childbirth, and a woman’s reproductive system.
Although other doctors can deliver babies, most women see an obstetrician—also called an OB/GYN.
Obstetricians take care of pregnant women throughout their pregnancy, providing follow-up care like annual Pap tests for years to come.
Basically, the role of obstetricians is to take care of pregnant women and childbirth. They do this in the following procedures and functions:
- Normal Delivery and Assistance – Obstetricians provide essential assisting steps by working together with midwives to monitor and facilitate normal delivery in women who are in labour.
- Facilitate Delivery – They place strategic cuts over the perineum of the pregnant mother to enlarge the birth canal; a procedure known as episiotomy. This facilitates delivery.
- Assistance to Prolonged Labour – To reduce maternal fatigue and fetal distress (rising heart rate and possible brain damage to the baby), obstetricians provide a helping hand to speed up the process by using techniques like forceps delivery, and vacuum assisted delivery.
- Caesarean Section – When vaginal delivery seems to be complicated and risky for a mother and her baby, a c-section is the best option. Obstetricians reduce this complication by performing c-sections.
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy – A pregnancy is said to be ectopic when a fertilised ovum gets implanted in other parts of the body like the fallopian tube other than the womb. With time, the fetus grows and poses a risk to the fallopian tube. It is the obstetrician that detects and removes such pregnancy before it becomes fatal.
- Cervical Cerclage Operation – Obstetricians help women who have had previous miscarriages by placing sutures around the cervix to prevent a recurrence.
- External Cephalic version (ECV) – When a baby is not seating in the correct birthing position (with its head down), an obstetrician manipulates it from the outside to restore normalcy.
- Diagnosis of Congenital Abnormalities – By using ultrasound scan and techniques like chorionic villus sampling, abnormalities like Down’s syndrome can be checked out while the baby is still inside the womb.
- Health Advice – Obstetricians provide advice on sexual health matters such as in the use of contraception and fitting Intra Uterine Contraceptive device (IUCD).
- Pregnancy Check – An obstetrician makes use of ultrasound to detect pregnancy and fetal wellbeing, including doing routine ultrasounds, tests and measurement
- Obstetricians detect and manage abortion, miscarriage and other procedures like Dilation and Curettage (D&C) or Dilation and Evacuation (D&E).
Your OB/GYN will also:
- Advise you about diet, medication, exercise and staying healthy as a pregnant mother
- Assist you to cope with leg and back pain, morning sickness, heartburn, and other common pregnancy complaints
- Diagnose potential health conditions that can affect your pregnancy or baby’s health such as genetic disorders, infections, blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Provide answers to questions about pregnancy and your growing baby
- Explain what happens during labour and delivery
HOW YOUR OB/GYN WORKS WITH YOUR PREGNANCY TEAM
Your OB usually plays a central role before, during, and after your pregnancy.
- Your obstetrician may recommend that you and the dad-to-be attend pregnancy education (childbirth classes) organised by nurses or childbirth educators
- Obstetricians work in collaboration with nurses, midwives, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals to provide your care.
- When it’s time to deliver your baby, nurses or labour coaches will help you via the hard work of labour, but your obstetrician will monitor your progress, and when the time comes, deliver your baby
- If your obstetrician works in a group practice where the doctors share “on call” duties, another doctor in the group may handle your childbirth. Ensure you find out about this when choosing an obstetrician.
WHY YOU MIGHT NEED AN OB/GYN
Midwives and family doctors can help you through with the pregnancy, but there are certain conditions where seeking the care of an OB becomes very necessary:
- If your pregnancy begins to develop complications under the care of a family practice doctor or midwife, you’ll be referred to an obstetrician
- Some women with high-risk pregnancies can get great help from an advanced obstetrician well versed in complicated pregnancies
- Women with a high-risk pregnancy or over the age of 35 can get prenatal care from an obstetrician
Even if you and your pregnancy are healthy, you may still have to seek care from an OB/GYN.
The role of obstetrics cannot be overemphasised. It is vital in childbirth.