OBSTETRICS, commonly abbreviated as OB, is a medical and surgical specialty dealing with the care and treatment of women during pregnancy and childbirth. In the United States, nearly all Obstetricians also practice Gynecology. Consequently, the field is often referred to as OB/GYN. Although some primary care providers may perform basic gynecologic evaluations and deliver babies, these physicians are still generalists who lack formal training in the surgical aspects of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Obstetricians who have undergone formal specialty training and Board Certification will bear the credentials of the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The field of Obstetrics involves both routine and “high risk” pregnancies, though the latter is often the domain of Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialists. Obstetricians manage a variety of conditions related to pregnancy such as hypertension, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, placenta previa, and placental abruption. They also serve as a woman’s primary care provider during pregnancy and handle routine medical issues that may occur. At the conclusion of pregnancy, Obstetricians may perform a variety of procedures such as routine vaginal delivery, Cesarean section (“C-Section”), forceps-assisted delivery, or vacuum-assisted delivery.
Litigation in Obstetrics is common, as Obstetricians are often named whenever there is a poor or unexpected fetal outcome. Typical allegations include failure to properly monitor the patient and fetus, failure to recognize signs of fetal distress, failure to perform delivery in a timely fashion, and failure to convert to a Cesarean section to avoid undue fetal distress. Such alleged breaches of the standard of care may result in fetal hypoxia (i.e. oxygen deprivation) with severe fetal harm or loss.