Can Your OB/GYN Be Your Primary Care Provider?

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on March 13, 2018

Many women, pressed for time, have begun turning to their OB/GYN for all of their health care needs.

This trend isn't limited to pregnant women and young mothers; middle-aged and older women are relying on their gynecologist too.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen more patients who don’t have a primary care physician,” said Jaclyn Nunziato, M.D., with Carilion Clinic Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“A few say they haven’t seen any other doctor since the birth of their last child. Some have to drive a long way to see a doctor, and choose to just see their gynecologist.”

But is it a good idea?

“We try our hardest to give these women comprehensive care, but in order for them to manage complicated medical conditions, a PCP should follow them closely,” said Dr. Nunziato.

Women need yearly physicals including a pelvic exam, thorough breast exam and a pap smear, if needed," she added, "but for complicated medical conditions beyond the scope of gynecology and obstetrics such as uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, we try to refer them back to a PCP as these conditions require close medical follow up." 

“We need to work in partnership with a PCP to get these patients the best care."

An example of this is seeing patients for postpartum depression within a year of giving birth.

“We are comfortable managing postpartum depression and often prescribe medication,” she said. “However, these patients often need close followup and changes in their medication regimens, so we often refer them back to their PCP or Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine for counseling and further evaluation.” 

In the future, it may be even harder for women who are hoping to make their gynecologist their PCP. 

“The trend is for us to become more and more specialized even within our field,” Dr. Nunziato noted. 

What does this mean for the average woman?

It’s now recommended that you get both a gynecological exam and a general physical exam yearly to catch and manage any problems.

Your primary care provider will conduct a complete physical, order any necessary tests, discuss lifestyle issues and give you age-appropriate immunizations.

So while you can ask your gynecologist for a general exam, you might also think about finding a primary care provider to help you manage your overall health and well-being. It’s all about optimizing your health options.