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Quick Dose: Do I Need a Primary Care Physician and an OB/GYN?

Your health is important, and choosing a physician who meets your needs is an important step in managing your health.

When it comes to women’s health, primary care physicians are your first point of contact for most healthcare situations, and over time, they get to know your medical history, inside and out. Building this relationship helps your physician recognize changes in your health and if need be, provide referrals to specialists for additional screenings and testing.

Your annual check-up is a good time to review your health history and have a thorough exam. During this visit, your primary care physician will check your vital signs, perform a complete examination, and order age-appropriate screening tests such as colonoscopies and mammograms. Many primary care physicians also include gynecologic care such as pelvic exams, pap smears and breast exams as part of their annual wellness exam. Some primary care physicians, such as those focusing more on the care of the elderly, do not provide gynecologic exams and may refer to you to an OB/GYN.

It may be appropriate to seek the care of an OB/GYN physician if you have specific concerns regarding pregnancy, childbirth and disorders of the reproductive system. They have specialized training in infertility, cancers of the reproductive system, high-risk pregnancies and menopause.

Above all, make sure you are comfortable having open conversations with the physician you choose, and check the physician is covered by your health insurance plan.

Natalie J. Choi, MD, family medicine physician, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group