What You Should Know about Obstetrics and Gynecology for the EMT Exam

By Arthur Hsieh

You will need to know about obstetrics and gynecology for the EMT exam. Obstetrics studies the pregnancy process, from fertilization to delivery. Gynecology is the study of diseases that can affect the reproductive system. Together, they represent a variety of conditions specific to the female.

The female reproductive system consists of several organs. A pair of ovaries are the primary organs, generating the hormones that are involved with pregnancy and secondary sex characteristics, and generating eggs.

During a menstrual cycle, hormone levels begin to rise, causing an egg to mature and be released roughly halfway through the cycle. The egg is swept into the fallopian tube where, if a viable sperm is present, it may be fertilized and become an embryo. This process is called conception.

[Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born, MA]
Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born, MA

At the same time this process is happening, the uterus thickens in preparation for possible implantation. If no fertilization occurs, the uterus sheds the additional tissue and expels it through the cervix, the opening from the uterus to the vagina. This is the bleeding and cramping associated with the menstrual period.

Once the cycle is over, another begins. These cycles are approximately 28 days in length, although the timing varies from one woman to the next.

If fertilization does occur, and the embryo implants within the thickened wall of the uterus, another change in hormone levels signals the body that it is pregnant. Menstrual cycles cease for the next 38 to 40 weeks as the embryo grows and matures.

Part of the thickened uterine wall becomes the placenta, which transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the developing fetus and carbon dioxide and wastes in the other direction via an umbilical cord.

Other changes in the female body also occur, such as enlargement of the mammary glands in the breasts. Many women complain of nausea and vomiting, especially in the first and third phases, or trimesters, of pregnancy.

[Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born, MA]
Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born, MA