Some gynecologists focus on routine care and treating diseases, while others specialize in obstetrics, which involves the care of pregnant women.
A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women's reproductive health, including diseases of the genital tract (ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vagina, and vulva).
A gynecologist also specializes in:
- Menstrual issues
- Prenatal care
Depending on their background, some gynecologists also provide primary care services for patients.
Some gynecologists specialize in gynecology only, while others specialize in obstetrics.
Obstetrics involves the care of pregnant women and their unborn children, as well as childbirth and the health of women soon after giving birth.
A doctor who is both a gynecologist and obstetrician is commonly referred to as an OB/GYN, O&G, or OBG.
Gynecologist Training and Education
Gynecologists must receive a bachelor's degree, then complete four years of medical school to become a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO).
Once they've completed medical school, they must complete a residency program in obstetrics and gynecology, which is typically another four years of paid work under supervision.
Gynecologists can seek out additional training (usually for three to four years) in subspecialty areas, including maternal and fetal medicine, gynecologic oncology (treating cancer of the genital tract), reproductive endocrinology, and female reconstructive surgery.
All medical doctors in the United States are required to be licensed in all states. This means they must graduate from an accredited medical school and pass three steps of the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
Gynecologists, like other doctors, don't have to become board certified in their specialty.
But doing so means they've completed a rigorous exam and other annual continuing medical education (CME) to maintain their knowledge of the specialty.
What Do Gynecologists Treat?
Gynecologists perform routine checkups that involve:
- Pelvic exams, which involve looking at the vagina and feeling inside to examine the uterus and ovaries
- Breast exams, to check for any abnormalities
- Pap tests, which involve taking a sample of cells from the cervix to check for pre-cancerous or cancerous conditions
Gynecologists may also perform gynecological procedures, such as:
- Hysterectomy, which is the removal of a woman's uterus, ovaries and/or fallopian tubes
- Laparoscopy, which involves using a flexible tube with a camera and specialized instruments to diagnose and treat pelvic conditions (such as ovarian cysts, adhesions, fibroids, and infections)
- Cone biopsies, in which precancerous cells in the cervix are removed
Where Do Gynecologists Work?
The Bureaus of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the most common places gynecologists work include:
- Doctors' offices
- Outpatient care centers
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Specialty hospitals
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools
The BLS also estimates that in 2014, the average yearly salary for obstetricians and gynecologists was $214,750.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- What is a gynecologist and why should I have one? East Bay Women's Health.
- Why see a gynecologist? GirlsHealth.gov.
- Obstetrics and Gynecology – What's the Difference? Is There One? Blue Ridge OB/GYN Associates.