What is Involved in an Obstetrics Residency?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2018
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It’s important to note before discussing obstetrics residency, that there are few if any programs that don’t include gynecology in their training. Thus most residencies typically involves training and practice in obstetrics, which is concerned with childbirth and mother care before, during and after childbirth, and practice in gynecology or the treatment of women devoted particularly to care of the reproductive tract and diseases that may affect it. It is more accurate to refer to OB/GYN residencies, though in this article the less accurate term of obstetrics residency will be employed.

Working in a residency program in medicine means taking extra years after medical school to specialize, and in the case of an obstetrics residency, it usually takes four years to complete a program. These years can be difficult, involving long hours and lots of additional study, but they can also be rewarding because people who successfully finish programs are then able to get board certification in their specialty and practice.


There are few things people can expect as residents. First, they will be paid, and this amount usually climbs each year. Money earned is not very much, but it is often enough to live on for one person, and salary may include features like paid leave, health insurance, or additional benefits. In the first year, most residents will primarily provide support and service to more senior residents; in fact they’ll usually have a third or fourth year resident as a boss. Shift work is common, with residents working sometimes round the clock, or at varying odd hours that can change. Most often programs are structured in rotations, so that people specialize in one area for a few weeks, and then move on to work in another area.

Gradually, in an obstetrics residency, residents are given greater responsibility and learn to do more procedures. It should be noted that though this is not a “surgical” specialty per se, OB/GYNs do perform surgery for things like c-sections, miscarriages, abortions, and disorders affecting the reproductive tract. Some of the time that residents spend learning will be spent learning how to do the common surgeries done in this profession. On the issue of abortion, dilation and curettage (D&C) is taught because it is used in other ways, but it may not be necessary for a person who objects to perform an abortion. This may vary by school policy and is something about which people can inquire.

As training continues, the person in the obstetrics residency program grows more confident and skilled. Third and fourth year residents may get to perform a lot of procedures and/or surgeries with minimal supervision, leaving less skilled first and second year residents to do more minor procedures or observe patients in recovery. Some programs also require a research component from their students, and all residents may work on fulfilling this, too. There are additional specialization years available if people want to explore the field, which could extend a residency into a fellowship and last one to three more years.



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