We are OB/GYNs: What you need to know

We care for girls and women, pregnant or not.

If you are two years old and put something in your girl parts and it disappears, we get it out.

We care for two patients at once. We balance how pregnancy impacts you and how you impact your pregnancy.

We watch over you and your baby throughout labor and delivery, so you can focus on creating a human.

We care for older women whose laughter runs down their legs.

We are surgical specialists. We perform seven of the most common surgeries in America.

We make the call when your baby needs to be delivered immediately.

We quarterback a team of nurses, midwives, physician assistants, surgical technicians, nurse practitioners, and anesthesiologists. We each have a role to play.

When you lose a baby, our hearts break too. Not as much or for as long as yours, but we carry your scar with us. We accumulate many scars in our careers.

We get women through menopause.

We may be the only person you can tell about your rape, abuse, herpes, or abortion. We keep your secrets and help you heal.

We hold hope for you when you can’t. We dance at the birth of your rainbow baby. You help us heal.

We help you get pregnant when you want to and not when you don’t.

We train the next generation, so they learn the ancient art of medicine as well as the cutting-edge of science.

We design and study new medications (or old medications used in new ways), new techniques, and new surgeries to help women and girls.

We care for women with cancer, masses, pain, or infection in their reproductive parts, who need our expertise and understanding.

We are the only people trained to pull a baby out by its feet.

As OB/GYNs, we earned a four-year college degree. Then we studied for four years in medical school, half in the classroom, and half in the hospital caring for patients. Next, we trained for four more years in residency, where we worked eighty hours a week in the hospital, still under supervision. In residency, we delivered hundreds of babies and performed hundreds of surgeries, while missing sleep, weekends, holidays, and most of our twenties.

We are doctors, both because of our medical degree and because of what our patients and teachers have taught us.

We passed the MCAT (medical school entrance exam), all three parts of the USMLE (national physician licensing exam), the written board exam at the end of residency and a grueling, day-long, in-person oral board exam two years after residency. We complete continuing education requirements every year. We never stop learning.

Midwives usually begin as nurses, then train for about two years. Doulas spend up to one week in the classroom and observe three births. Each has a role to play, but it’s not the same as ours.

We tell you when your baby has no heartbeat. We tell you when your ovary has cancer. We know our words will break your world. We take a deep breath and let them slip out softly, but we are the ones who have to say them.

We see you at the most vulnerable, painful, powerful times in your life. We hold your baby first. We celebrate with you every chance we get.

We make the final call; we carry the ultimate responsibility. Our decision is based on science, knowledge, skill, and compassion. It’s not perfect, because we don’t have all the information we need to predict the future. We do it anyway. We do it because we care for the women we serve.

K. M. Walker is an obstetrics-gynecology physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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