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What is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist?

An obstetrician-gynecologist, or ob-gyn, is a doctor who specializes in the care of women. He or she has completed special training in obstetrics, which is the care of pregnant women. This includes the preconception (before pregnancy) period, pregnancy, labor and childbirth, and after a baby is born. Ob-gyns are also trained in gynecology. Gynecology covers a woman’s general health care, including care of her reproductive organs, breasts, and sexual function. Gynecology also includes management of hormonal disorders, treatment of infections, and training in surgery to correct or treat pelvic organ or urinary tract problems.

Your ob-gyn also offers preventive health care. This can help you make informed choices that prevent health problems. Preventive health care includes exams and routine tests to detect problems early, before you become sick. Immunizations to prevent disease are also part of preventive care.

Since ob-gyns are trained to evaluate overall woman’s health, they provide care for a wide range of medical issues; much more than just pregnancy and problems of the reproductive system. For many women, the ob-gyn is their primary care physician—the doctor they turn to first for health care.

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Your Ob-Gyn’s qualifications

All ob-gyns are graduates of college and an accredited medical school. Each must also complete an additional four-year course of special training—called a residency—in obstetrics and gynecology. This training equips the ob-gyn physician to provide general care to women, in addition to specialized care related to pregnancy and the reproductive organs.

Board certified.  Following residency plus at least two additional years of practice, a doctor may apply for board certification by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He or she must pass two tests to become board certified. The first is a written test covering both medical and surgical care. Passing this test demonstrates that the candidate has the necessary knowledge and skills to treat women. The second is an oral exam before a panel of national experts. This exam reviews the skills, knowledge and ability to treat different conditions, and includes a review of cases the candidate has treated during the preceding year.

Starting in 2001, new certificates and maintenance of certification certificates issued by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology are six years in duration.

FACOG.  If the initials FACOG are behind your ob-gyn’s name, he or she is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). An ACOG Fellow is a full member and all Fellows are board certified. Founded in 1951, ACOG has over 46,000 members and is the nation’s leading group of professionals providing health care for women. The organization supports women’s health care issues and offers a range of educational programs to help doctors keep up with the latest advances in women’s health care.

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This information is adapted from patient education information developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This information does not dictate an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed and should not be interpreted as excluding other acceptable methods of practice.


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