Choosing an Obstetrician

An obstetrician, also commonly called OB/GYN, usually offers a variety of women’s health services, such as annual Pap tests. Obstetricians are also trained to manage complications during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

What is an Obstetrician?

An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the management of pregnancy, labor and birth. They also receive specialized education in the health of the female reproductive system and surgical care. Much of their education focuses on the detection and management of obstetrical and gynecological problems.

What services do Obstetricians provide?

The services offered may vary depending on the specialty and advanced training of the OB/GYN. Some physicians choose to practice only obstetrics; others may choose to practice only gynecology. Most physicians choose to practice both specialties and offer a variety of services.

These services may include:

  • Prenatal care
  • Labor and birth care
  • Annual gynecologic exams, including Pap smear test and breast exam
  • Contraceptive counseling
  • Sexually transmitted disease treatment
  • Abnormal Pap test treatment, including colposcopy, cryosurgery and cone biopsy
  • Acute and chronic medical conditions such as endometriosis
  • Infertility diagnosis and treatment
  • Menopause management

Where do Obstetricians practice?

Many obstetricians practice in a private office, with or without a group of physicians. They may also practice in a hospital or clinic setting. Some experienced OB/GYNs maintain teaching positions at university hospitals.

How are Obstetricians trained?

Obstetricians must complete the requirements set by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). The requirements include:

  • Graduation from approved medical school
  • Complete four years of residency training that includes: obstetrics, gynecology, gynecologic oncology, ultrasonography and preventive care

After completing the residency training, OB/GYNs must pass a test administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) to be board certified. Some OB/GYNs may choose to further pursue a sub-specialty such as infertility or maternal/fetal medicine.

What are the advantages of using an Obstetrician?

One reason many women choose an obstetrician for their pregnancy is because they are comfortable with their current OB/GYN. Other women choose to use an OB/GYN because they are experiencing a high risk pregnancy. Some possible benefits to using an OB/GYN include:

  • Specialized training to manage complications such as preeclampsia or placenta previa
  • Access to medical technology such as ultrasound and genetic testing
  • Specialized surgical training if a cesarean birth becomes necessary
  • Birth location at a hospital

What are the disadvantages of using an Obstetrician?

Approximately 60-80% of women experience a low risk pregnancy. Using an obstetrician may be a disadvantage if you desire a more natural, hands off approach to pregnancy and childbirth. Obstetricians are trained to manage complications using many medical interventions. Some possible disadvantages to using an OB/GYN include:

  • Increased risk of an episiotomy, induction, or assisted delivery
  • Increased chance of cesarean birth
  • Birth location at hospital rather than birth center or home
  • Higher cost for prenatal care and birth

Last Updated: 09/2008

Compiled using information from the following sources:

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology,

Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Simkin, Penny, P.T., et al, Ch. 12.


Women’s Health Channel,

American Pregnancy Association,

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