An obstetrician's role is to ensure the health of a woman during pregnancy and delivery. The procedures they are trained to perform differ from those offered by gynaecologists or midwives. If you are under the care of an obstetrician, they will carry out all your prenatal checks and work with you to create a birth plan that suits your circumstances.
Any pregnant woman can choose obstetric care, but there are situations when being under the care of an obstetrician rather than a midwife is recommended for the health and safety of both the pregnant woman and her growing baby. For example, those with chronic health conditions, a drug or alcohol addiction, history of miscarriage or carrying twins would be considered to benefit from obstetric care. An obstetrician may also be called in during a labour that's not going to plan, as their expertise in the field of complicated deliveries can help to keep women and babies safe when complications arise.
Here's an overview of three procedures an obstetrician can perform:
Cervical cerclage is a procedure that's used to help prevent premature labour in women who've experienced premature labour in a previous pregnancy or whose cervix is opening too early, which may be discovered due to experiencing pain or during a routine prenatal check-up. The procedure involves stitching the cervix to help keep the womb closed and provide some support to keep the amniotic sac in place. Some women are advised to go on bed rest after this procedure to keep the cervix supported and prevent damage to the stitched area from exertion.
Dilation And Curettage
Dilation and curettage is a procedure that's carried out after a miscarriage to remove the uterine tissue that thickens during pregnancy. This tissue is no longer required and is removed to prevent the risk of infection. The procedure can be carried out using local or general anaesthetic and involves having your cervix dilated with a speculum, which is the same instrument used to carry out pap smears. Surgical tools are then used to scrape away uterine tissue and a suction tool is used to ensure the cervix is free of debris at the end of the procedure.
Episiotomy is a procedure that's used when a vaginal delivery needs to be moved along quickly for the safety of the baby or when the mother is struggling to continue with labour. It involves making an incision along the perineum, which is the area between the vagina and anus, to widen the vaginal opening and allow for an easier delivery. After delivery, the incision will be closed with dissolving stitches.
These are a few examples of the procedures obstetricians can carry out. If you'd like to see an obstetrician during your pregnancy, you can self-refer or ask your GP to refer you to your local maternity hospital.