Should Your Gynecologist Also Be Your Main Doctor?

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

Many women, pressed for time, have started to see their gynecologist for all their health care needs.

It isn’t just pregnant women and young mothers, but middle-aged and older women too.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen more patients who don’t have a primary care physician (PCP),” 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, but for complicated medical conditions beyond the scope of gynecology and obstetrics such as uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled blood pressure and heart disease, we try to refer them back to a PCP as these conditions require close medical follow up, " she added.

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

An example of this is seeing patients for post-partum 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 follow up and change in medication regimens, so we often refer them back to their PCP or psychology/psychiatry for counseling and further evaluation when needed.” 

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. “We welcome referrals from PCPs for complicated gynecology problems and hope to continue to have a great partnership with many of the local PCPS.”

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 PCP will do 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 time to see a PCP. It’s all about optimizing your health options. 

How often do you really need a pap smear?