Obstetrics and Gynaecology
(often abbreviated to OB/GYN
or Obs & Gynae
) are the two surgical
specialties dealing with the female reproductive organs, and as such are often combined to form a single medical speciality
and postgraduate training program. This combined training prepares the practicing OB/GYN to be adept at the surgical management of the entire scope of clinical pathology involving female reproductive organs, and to provide care for both pregnant
and non-pregnant patients.
In rural areas of the United States, particularly in areas west of the Mississippi River, it is not uncommon for general practitioners to offer obstetrical services to their patients. However, these generalists are most often not trained in the surgical aspects of obstetrics, nor have they been trained in gynaecology, and as such, they should not be confused with residency trained and board-certified OB/GYNs. All obstetricians, therefore, are trained gynaecologists, although the reverse is not necessarily true. However, some OB/GYNs may choose to drop the obstetric component of their practice and focus solely on gynaecology, especially as they get older. This decision is often based on the double burden of very late hours and, depending on the country, high rates of litigation.
The training for physicians in this field is often quite arduous: in Australia
, for example, the residency
training period is among the longest at six years, matched only by neurosurgery
and maxillofacil surgery
. In the United States
, however, OB/GYN specialists require four years of tertiary education
at an accredited college
, followed by four years of medical school
and four years in residency
. In India
, post graduate training in Obstetrics
is in the form of a two year diploma course DGO
or a three year one (MD
).Some OB/GYN surgeons elect to do further subspecialty training in programs known as 'fellowships' after completing their residency training, although the majority choose to enter private or academic practice as general OB/GYNs. Fellowship training in an obstetric
subspeciality can range from one to four years in duration, and these 'fellowship' programs usually have a research component involved with the clinical and operative training.
Examples of subspecialty training available to physicians in the US are:
Of these, only the first four are truly recognized sub-specialties by the Accredited Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ABOG.) The other sub-specialities are recognized as informal concentrations of practice. To be recognized as a board-certified subspecialist, a practitioner must have completed an ACGME-accredited fellowship and obtained a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) which requires an additional standardized examination.
Recent shortage in US
In the last few years, medical malpractice
suits and skyrocketing insurance premiums have forced many American obstetricians and gynaecologists to leave or limit their practice. From 2000 through 2004, American medical students were increasingly choosing not to specialize in obstetrics (see Bower 2003). This led to a critical shortage of obstetricians in some states and often, fewer health care options for women - although it did not lead to higher average salaries, as an article by Medical Economics
points out. However, beginning in 2004, increasing state legislation mandating tort reform
combined with the ACGME's decision to limit resident work hours lead to a gradual resurgence in the number of medical students choosing OB/GYN as a specialty. In the medical residency
match for 2007, only six spots in OB/GYN training programs remained vacant throughout the entire United States
; a record low number, and one that puts OB/GYN on-par in terms of competitiveness with other surgical
- Llewellyn-Jones, Derek, Fundamentals of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 7th ed., Mosby, 1999.
- Bower, Amanda, "Today’s Lesson: Switch Specialty." Time. June 9, 2003. Vol. 161, Issue 23, p. 58, 1/2p, 1c.