gynecology (gĪnˌəkŏlˈəjē) [key], branch of medicine specializing in the disorders of the female reproductive system. Modern gynecology deals with menstrual disorders, menopause, infectious disease and maldevelopment of the reproductive organs, disturbances of the sex hormones, benign and malignant tumor formation, and the prescription of contraceptive devices. A branch of gynecology, reproductive medicine, deals with infertility and utilizes artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilizations, where a human egg is harvested, fertilized in a test tube, then implanted into the womb. Some gynecologists also practice obstetrics. Surgical gynecology began to make progress in the 19th cent., when the introduction of anesthesia and antisepsis (see antiseptic) paved the way for many advances. The American physician J. M. Sims was largely responsible for gaining acceptance of gynecology as a medical and surgical specialty. Until then there had been opposition to it on moral grounds from midwives, the clergy and the medical profession. In recent years, because of controversies over abortion and birth control, government has become involved in gynecological practice.
See Z. Rosenwaks et al., Gynecology: Principles and Practice (1987).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.