An obstetrician is a physician (medical doctor) who
specializes in obstetrics, which is the science that
deals with the care of women and their fetuses during
pregnancy and childbirth, and during the events that
come before and soon after birth. Obstetrics also deals
with the normal and abnormal functioning of the female
reproductive system. Obstetrician is commonly
abbreviated as OB. Since obstetrics is almost always
studied and practiced along with gynecology (see
gynecologists), these two fields of study are commonly
abbreviated as OB/GYN.
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Women often go to an OB/GYN for Pap smears and colposcopies. A Pap smear is a
type of test used to detect abnormal changes in cells. This is done by scraping away
loose cells from the cervix, spreading (smearing) it on a glass slide, and examining it
under a microscope. The cervix is a small, cylinder-shaped organ that forms the lower
part and neck of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow organ in a female's body where the
egg is implanted and the fetus develops. A colposcopy is a visual examination of the
vagina and cervix with a lighted magnifying instrument, known as a colposcope. The
vagina is an opening in the female's body that is part of the reproductive system. Pap
smears and colposcopies are useful for diagnosing low grade squamous epithelial
lesions and high grade squamous epithelial lesions, which are abnormal growths of
squamous cells on the surface of the cervix. Squamous cells are flat, scale-like types of
epithelial cells. Epithelial cells are cells that help absorb, move, and distribute some of
the fluids and nutrients in the body.
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Any obstetrician can apply to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, to become board
certified. The obstetrician that is board certified has been agreed upon by a board (group) of peers (other
obstetricians) to meet the rigorous standards necessary to practice obstetrics, and has achieved the
highest level of education possible in this field. Obstetrician comes from the Latin word "obstetrix,"
meaning "midwife," which is someone who helps deliver a baby.