Diploma in Obstetrics and Women's Health (DOWH)

Applying for the DOWH


The Diploma in Obstetrics and Women's Health (DOWH) is an international benchmark qualification from RCPI. It recognises your knowledge and skills in providing obstetric care in general practice and can help you progress your career.

The exam will be of particular interest if you are a general practitioner who wants to have your competence in the area of Obstetrics recognised. It is also of relevance to trainees in Family & Community Health (FAMCO) in Oman.

You can view exam dates for 2014 here.

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To be eligible to sit this exam, you must have:

  1. A medical qualification that is registered
  2. A minimum of four consecutive months in a postgraduate appointment specifically recognised by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCPI) or by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (UK) or the equivalent professional body in your own country

You must complete your required four months training in the recognised Obstetrics and Gynaecology appointment by the date of the exam. And this training must be in addition to your intern year.

There is a limit of three attempts at this exam.

How to apply

Applying for the first time?

Upload these documents as part of your online application which can be found in the exams calendar:

  • Proof of qualification – attested/certified copy of original diploma of medical qualification
  • Attested/Certified copy of certificate to prove full or temporary registration with the Medical Council or your own national Medical Registration Council
  • Provide a letter from a consultant confirming completion of four months recognised training

Your documents can be attested by:

  • An Garda Síochána (police)
  • The issuing authority
  • A solicitor
  • A Commissioner for Oaths

Taken this exam before?

Just complete the online application form which can be found in the exams calendar.

Information and support 

For more information on this exam in Ireland you can contact examinations@rcpi.ie 

For more information on this exam overseas you can contact Alan O'Mahony at alanomahony@rcpi.ie

The exam is conducted on the presumption that childbirth and gynaecological surgery will normally take place in hospitals and the role of the general practitioner is to offer advice and screening facilities in all matters relating to women’s health.

There will be a strong focus on:

  • Antenatal and postnatal care
  • The welfare of the fetus and neonate
  • Your level of knowledge of menstrual disorders
  • Methods of family planning
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Screening for gynaecological malignancy

You will not be asked about the details of operative procedures. However, you will be expected to give specific reasons about the timing of and why you would refer a patient for consultant opinion.

This is a written exam only.

Written exam

Multiple true false (MTF) paper

The MTF paper consists of 60 questions, each containing five parts, and is two hours in duration.

There is no negative marking and each question is equally weighted so we advise you to attempt all questions.

It will examine all areas of obstetrics and gynaecology and associated subjects.

Short question (SQ) paper

The SQ paper consists of 20 questions of a data interpretation/short clinical scenario nature. You have six minutes to answer each question, after which you must submit the answer sheet to the invigilator and go on to the next question.

This paper is designed to assess your ability to interpret obstetrical scenarios within a time-pressurised environment.

Information and support 

For more information on this exam in Ireland you can contact examinations@rcpi.ie

For more information on this exam overseas you can contact Alan O'Mahony at alanomahony@rcpi.ie


This syllabus has been developed to ensure that you have a basis for formative (in-course) assessment as well as ensuring that the educational needs of trainees are clearly defined and met in the most effective way.

The following guidelines have been agreed by the Institute’s Examination and Hospital Inspection Committee, you and the examiners and may change from time to time.

The syllabus is in three parts:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitudes



Periconceptual care

  • Effect of pregnancy on disease
  • Effect of disease on pregnancy
  • Principles of inheritance of disease
  • Teratogenesis

Purposes and practice of antenatal care

  • Arrangements for and conduct of the ‘booking’ visit
  • Arrangements for the conduct of follow-up visits
  • The use of imaging techniques
  • Screening for abnormalities
  • Health education
  • Liaison between health professionals


  • Maternal mortality and morbidity
  • Perinatal mortality and morbidity

Management of normal

  • Pregnancy
  • Puerperium
  • Neonate, including feeding

Management of abnormality

  • Emergency management
    • Maternal collapse
    • Neonatal collapse
    • Severe hypertension and eclampsia
    • Haemorrhage
  • Antenatal management
    • Miscarriage
    • Ectopic pregnancy
    • Hyperemesis gravidarum
    • Maternal systemic infection
    • Urinary tract infection
    • Hypertension
    • Antepartum haemorrhage
    • Maternal haematological disorders
    • Maternal diabetes mellitus
    • Maternal cardiac disease
    • Drugs in pregnancy
    • Multiple pregnancy
    • Fetal abnormality
    • Fetal growth disorders
    • Fetal compromise
    • Premature labour
    • Blood group iso-immunisation
  • Intrapartum management 
    • The recognition and assessment of the onset of labour
    • Induction of labour
    • Augmentation of labour
    • Analgesia
    • Maternal hypertension
    • Haemorrhage
    • Fetal compromise
    • Assisted vaginal delivery (forceps and venthouse)
    • Twin delivery
    • Breech delivery
    • Caesarean section
    • Retained placenta
    • Perineal repair
  • Neonatal management
    • Resuscitation
    • Recognition of abnormality
    • Feeding difficulties
  • Puerperal management 
    • Problems of lactation
    • Haemorrhage
    • Pyrexia
    • Thrombo-embolism
    • Depression


Sexual differentiation

  • Chromosomal disorders
  • Embryology of the female genital tract
  • Female pelvic anatomy
  • Male pelvic anatomy


  • Growth
  • Endocrinology
  • Development of secondary sexual characteristics
  • Gonadal function
  • Behavioural changes

Gonadal function

  • Normal hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal interactions
  • Female gametogenesis
  • Male gametogenesis
  • Abnormal reproductive endocrinology


  • Physiology of the menstrual cycle
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Infrequent menses
  • Excessive menstruation
  • Pain

Human sexuality

  • Sexual identity
  • Normal coitus
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dyspareunia


  • Epidemiology
  • Causes
  • Principles of management


  • Normal control in the female
  • Investigation of problems
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Management of incontinence
  • Management of voiding difficulty


  • Physical changes
  • Psychological aspects
  • Management of symptoms
  • Use of hormone 
  • Replacement therapy

Benign gynaecological conditions

  • Pruritis vulvae
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Pelvic pain
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Benign ovarian neoplasms
  • Utero-vaginal prolapse

Gynaecological oncology

  • Screening
  • Colposcopy
  • Carcinoma of the cervix
  • Carcinoma of the endometrim
  • Carcinoma of the ovary
  • Carcinoma of the vulva
  • Trophoblastic disease
  • Principles of management

Special gynaecological problems

  • Paediatric gynaecology
  • Problems in the elderly
  • Problems in endocrine disease

Women’s health care and family planning

Women’s reproductive health

  • Advice before conception
  • Breast screening
  • Cervical cytology
  • Health education


  • Population trends
  • Contraceptive use
  • Contraceptive failure rates

Contraceptive methods

  • Natural
  • Spermicides
  • Barrier
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Hormonal
  • Sterilisation

Contraceptive use

  • Acceptability
  • Effectiveness
  • Indications
  • Contra-indications
  • Age-specific prescribing

Legal issues

  • Age and consent
  • Confidentiality
  • Assisted reproduction
  • Registration of birth, etc


History taking

  • Obstetrical
  • Gynaecological
  • Contraceptive


  • Abdomen of the pregnant woman
  • Speculum
  • Vaginal - gynaecological
  • Antenatal
  • In labour
  • Postnatal
  • Neonate

Practical procedures

  • Manage antenatal ‘booking’
  • Perform antenatal follow-up
  • Perform postnatal review
  • Take cervical smear
  • Take swabs from the genital tract
  • Assess patient in early labour
  • Assess neonate


  • For infertility
  • For contraception
  • For sterilisation (female – male)
  • For sexually transmitted disease
  • Before conception
  • After miscarriage
  • After perinatal death
  • Before surgery
  • About screening for fetal abnormality
  • About screening for malignant disease
  • After malignancy is diagnosed


  • Keep appropriate case notes
  • Audit performance
  • Liaise with professional colleagues
  • Arrange appropriate recall


To women and their partners

  • Understanding their expectations about:
    • Menstruation
    • Sexuality
    • Fertility
    • Pregnancy
    • Childbirth
    • Parenthood
  • Appropriate involvement in decision-making
  • Awareness of influences of culture and religion
  • Need of special groups:
    • Socially disadvantaged
    • Physically handicapped
    • Mentally handicapped
    • The adolescent

To colleagues

  • Co-operation with other health professionals
  • Effective and timely sharing of information
  • Appropriate referral

The Hospital Recognition and Examination Committee of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has decided that any aspect of these topics may be covered in the various parts of the exam.

This does not prevent examiners from discussing other related topics, which are relevant to general practice.

Information and support 

For more information on this exam in Ireland you can contact examinations@rcpi.ie

For more information on this exam overseas you can contact Alan O'Mahony at alanomahony@rcpi.ie

Exam regulations

Read the regulations governing the DOWH exam.


Find out how to appeal an exam result.

Information and support 

For more information on this exam in Ireland you can contact examinations@rcpi.ie

For more information on this exam overseas you can contact Alan O'Mahony at alanomahony@rcpi.ie

Now available - Examination Results November 2013 - Dublin

Issuing results

You will be able to access your provisional exam results here on this website approximately one to four working weeks after the exam.

We never give exam results over the telephone, by fax, email or in person.

We will post your result letter shortly after the provisional result list is uploaded to the website.

Recheck of results

You can request a recheck of your written exam results for a fee of €150.

You must submit the recheck application form within four weeks of the date of your official results.

The fee will be refunded if a recheck changes your overall exam result to a pass mark.

Information and support 

For more information on this exam in Ireland you can contact examinations@rcpi.ie

For more information on this exam overseas you can contact Alan O'Mahony at alanomahony@rcpi.ie