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[gahy-ni-kol-uh-jee, jin-i-, jahy-ni-]
gynecology, branch of medicine specializing in the disorders of the female reproductive system. Modern gynecology deals with menstrual disorders, menopause, infectious disease and maldevelopment of the reproductive organs, disturbances of the sex hormones, benign and malignant tumor formation, and the prescription of contraceptive devices. A branch of gynecology, reproductive medicine, deals with infertility and utilizes artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilizations, where a human egg is harvested, fertilized in a test tube, then implanted into the womb. Some gynecologists also practice obstetrics. Surgical gynecology began to make progress in the 19th cent., when the introduction of anesthesia and antisepsis (see antiseptic) paved the way for many advances. The American physician J. M. Sims was largely responsible for gaining acceptance of gynecology as a medical and surgical specialty. Until then there had been opposition to it on moral grounds from midwives, the clergy and the medical profession. In recent years, because of controversies over abortion and birth control, government has become involved in gynecological practice.

See Z. Rosenwaks et al., Gynecology: Principles and Practice (1987).

Medical and surgical specialty concerned with the management of pregnancy and childbirth and with the health of the female reproductive system. Obstetrics, first practiced by midwives, developed as a medical discipline in the 17th–19th centuries, adopting the use of forceps in delivery, anesthetics, and antiseptic methods. The last two made cesarean section possible. Obstetricians confirm pregnancy, diagnose ectopic pregnancy, conduct prenatal care, perform amniocentesis, deliver babies, and perform abortions. In the late 20th century a backlash against the excessive medicalization of birth led to a revival of midwifery and encouragement of natural childbirth. Gynecologists do routine pelvic exams, take samples for Pap smears, advise on and prescribe birth control, and treat reproductive system disorders (e.g., endometriosis, hormonal imbalances, problems with menstruation and menopause). They perform surgery to prevent conception (tubal ligation), repair pelvic injuries, and remove cysts and tumours from the uterus, cervix, and ovaries. Both specialties are involved in diagnosis and treatment of infertility. Seealso hysterectomy.

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