Every year, all adults are encouraged to see their physician for an annual exam. For many women, that may mean seeing two physicians: one for primary care and one for gynecology.
But are those two visits really necessary? Or can you see just one doctor, once a year, saving valuable time?
Research suggests that half of all OB/GYNs consider themselves primary care physicians who can help you with a wide range of medical problems. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has even issued guidelines for well-woman exams for women at every stage of life. These guidelines help OB/GYNs deliver quality preventive medicine just like any other primary care provider would do.
So should you consider your OB/GYN as a primary care physician? You may be able to attend just one well-woman appointment with your OB/GYN every year if you fit any of the following situations.
When it makes sense to see your OB/GYN for primary care:
You’re over 21 and/or sexually active
Girls and teens should see a pediatrician or adolescent medicine physician for health conditions. These physicians have the training necessary to take care of growing and developing girls.
Once young women turn 21 or become sexually active, they may choose to see an OB/GYN instead. Sexually active women benefit from seeing OB/GYNs who specialize in reproductive health issues like sexually transmitted infections, contraception and pregnancy.
You have chronic women’s health issues
If you have a gynecologic issue that requires yearly attention, you may benefit from seeing your gynecologist instead of a family medicine provider. These issues may include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Chronic uterine fibroids
- Cervical dysplasia
- Personal or family history of gynecologic cancer
Your gynecologist has greater expertise and training in managing these health conditions. They can help guide you to the most up-to-date treatments.
You don’t have other chronic conditions
If you are a healthy woman who rarely gets sick, you may not need many other health services besides a well-woman visit. Your gynecologist can help you with cholesterol screenings, weight loss, contraception, Pap smears and other screenings you need to keep an eye on your health. They can even give you vaccines. Your gynecologist can likely help you with any health question you have or refer you to the right doctor to help.
However, if you have other health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, you may need a primary care physician to help you manage your overall health. It may be best for you to go to both appointments every year to ensure you’re getting the right care for your health needs.
You love your gynecologist
If you can share anything and everything with your gynecologist, you may be able to use him or her as your main source of primary care. It’s important that whomever you use as a primary care provider has your full trust so you feel comfortable talking about your life and health. Open communication and trust can help you receive care that is best suited for your needs. If you aren’t comfortable with your OB/GYN as your primary care provider, you should find a doctor who you can trust.
Find an OB/GYN who provides comprehensive health care at Women’s Care Florida.
Your OB/GYN provides more than just pelvic exams and pregnancy care. He or she can be your lifelong partner in achieving better health – from your first Pap smear to menopause and beyond. And seeing your gynecologist for primary care can make taking care of your health more convenient. That’s why it’s important to know the range of health services your OB/GYN can provide, and how these all fit together for a complete picture of your health.
Next time you see your gynecologist for your well-woman exam, ask about these important primary care services, too.
1) Heart health screenings
Your gynecologist can help you keep an eye on your heart with blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings and blood sugar screenings to monitor your health as you age. They can also give you advice and counseling on how to maintain good heart health through exercise, nutrition and smoking cessation.
2) Thyroid screenings
Thyroid conditions may affect your health and your hormones—including the ones responsible for your menstrual cycle. Your gynecologist can perform tests and diagnose thyroid conditions that can affect many aspects of your health.
Your OB/GYN can help protect your health with vaccinations for illnesses like the flu, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis and more. These vaccines are important for women of all ages and especially vital for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Every woman should start getting mammograms at a different age depending on their family history and other risk factors. Your OB/GYN can help you decide the right time to start this lifesaving screening and may even offer this service in their offices.
5) Nutrition counseling
Good nutrition is key to a healthy life. Your OB/GYN can provide nutrition counseling suited to your stage of life, whether you are pregnant or facing the changes of menopause. Good nutrition helps you maintain a healthy weight, stave off heart disease and even reduce your risk for osteoporosis. They can also recommend supplements like folic acid or calcium depending on your age and health goals.
6) Mental health evaluations
Conditions that affect your reproductive health might affect your mental health, too. For instance, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) might increase your risk for depression. Having a child may result in postpartum depression. Your OB/GYN can evaluate you for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and get you the care you need for better mental health.
7) Cancer screenings
Depending on your medical and family history, you may need to be screened for cervical or ovarian cancer. Your gynecologist performs these screenings and helps you understand your risk for these conditions.
8) Osteoporosis screenings
As women age, they can experience bone loss due to osteoporosis. Your gynecologist can help you reduce your risk for osteoporosis with medicines and nutrition counseling. They can also perform DEXA (duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry) screenings to diagnose osteoporosis and help you find the treatment you need for healthier bones.
9) Weight loss help
Many gynecologists offer weight loss programs to help you tackle obesity and maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular physical activity and good nutrition can improve all aspects of your health, reducing your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more.
Ask your OB/GYN about these services at your next appointment to ensure you are getting the preventive care you need. Find your partner for better health at Women’s Care Florida.