obstetrics and gynecology
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. See also hysterectomy.
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