The health-care needs of a woman alter with time. Nonetheless, regular visits to a trustworthy primary care physician, obstetrician-gynecologist, and other experts can assist ensure that you receive treatment for long-term health difficulties and learn how to avoid future problems.
Here are the primary sorts of doctors that women should see on a regular basis for their health, as well as some other experts you may need to add to your health-care team.
A primary care doctor is a health professional who handles your overall care needs. This person provides a bird’s eye perspective, as opposed to focusing on just one organ system or medical problem like a specialist would, says Dr. Evelyn Darius, an Atlanta-based primary care physician for the telehealth platform PlushCare.
Dr. Chantel Strachan, a primary care physician with Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, says, “We are a person’s ‘home base,’ assisting them in navigating our health care system.”
Here are some of the things that a primary care provider can do for you:
- Check your vital signs, like your temperature and heart rate. Abnormal vital signs can alert your provider to a potential health problem.
- Order lab tests for routine screenings, like cholesterol. The screenings you need will change as you age and your risk for problems like diabetes or heart disease increases.
- Manage chronic disorders such as high blood pressure, thyroid disorders and diabetes.
- Refer you to specialists as needed for in-depth care in specific areas of medicine. Examples of this might include a specialist in urogynecology or fertility.
- As you get care from other specialists, your primary care provider can help coordinate the care and make sure that you follow through on any recommendations, such as a recommended surgery or simply a follow-up appointment in six months.
- Review medications, or over-the-counter supplements, to ensure that they are right for you.
- Provide immunizations.
- Screen for depression and other mental health issues.
- Educate you on various health concerns and ways to prevent future health problems.
- Provide you updated information on vaccination against and prevention of COVID-19.
In many cases, this person’s title is primary care physician. However, nurse practitioners or physician assistants also can serve in this role. Although these providers can perform the same or most of the same tasks as a physician, state laws may indicate if the care they provide should occur under a physician’s direct supervision.
You can find a primary care provider in several ways:
- Read online patient reviews on Google, Zocdoc or Healthgrades.
- If you have health insurance, find out who in your area is covered under your plan.
- Ask friends or family for recommendations.
A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women’s health issues. An obstetrician specializes in the care of women who are pregnant, including their labor and delivery, says Dr. Eva Chalas, an OB/GYN and professor with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Long Island School of Medicine and former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You may often hear these specialists referred to as OB/GYNs. Not all gynecologists are obstetricians, but all obstetricians are gynecologists.
An OB/GYN can handle the following:
- Advise you on birth control methods.
- Perform breast and pelvic exams.
- Perform Pap smears to check for cervical cancer.
- Provide breast cancer screening.
- Screen for sexually transmitted infections.
- Treat sexual problems like low libido.
- Help with planning for pregnancy and answer fertility-related questions.
- Help with perimenopause and menopause care.
- Provide care for moms-to-be who are pregnant, or immediately after childbirth. This applies to a gynecologist also trained as an obstetrician. The OB/GYN “becomes the primary care provider of a pregnant woman,” says Dr. Megan Gray, a board-certified OB/GYN with Orlando Health in Orlando, Florida.
Questions a patient should ask their OB/GYN include:
- What types of exams or tests do I need based on my personal and family history?
- Should I be tested for a sexually transmitted infection or HIV?
- Are there reasons I’m experiencing a reduced sex drive?
- Is it normal to feel (angry, depressed, bloated, or any other symptom concerning you) during my period?
- What forms of birth control are best for me to prevent pregnancy?
- What should I expect as I approach menopause?
Some Final Tips for Better Women’s Health
- If you have health insurance, check your coverage before visiting a practice you haven’t been to before. Some insurances require a referral from your primary care provider before you see a specialist. If you don’t have health insurance, ask the office about self-pay options.
- If you are a current or former smoker, talk to your primary care provider about associated health risks and the benefits of lung cancer screening. The deadliest cancer for women is lung cancer, Kilby says.
- Talk to your health care team about better ways to eat healthily and get regular exercise. These can help lower your risk for many chronic medical conditions, including heart disease and cancer, Chalas says.
- Write down any questions or concerns you have before your visit. “No question is a stupid question,” Strachan says. “We are here to help and advocate for you.”
This story has been published from a syndicate feed with few modifications to the text.