Women’s healthcare needs change a great deal
at different stages of their lives. Because of this, women often see a number
of different types of doctors for care. Some women even see multiple types of
doctors for primary care. Others focus on gynecologic care and don’t see a
doctor for anything else.
It’s a good idea to come prepared with
questions about your health needs when you visit your doctor. The questions you
ask will depend on the type of care you are going to receive.
Visiting a Primary Care Physician
A primary care provider, or PCP, is the main
doctor many women see. PCPs
are also known as general practitioners or family practice physicians. This doctor treats common illnesses such as colds and minor
infections. They can also serve as a home base for your medical care. Your PCP
can also collect all your data in one place for future reference.
With certain types of insurance, a referral
from your PCP is necessary to see a specialist.
Questions you might ask your PCP include:
- What can I do to improve my
- Am I at high risk for any
- What screening tests do I need
- What tests will I need next
- Should I get a flu shot or other
- Are antibiotics necessary to
treat this infection?
Internists are also primary care doctors.
They specialize in the treatment of adults. These doctors often help manage
chronic illnesses like hypertension or diabetes.
Visiting the Gynecologist
A gynecologist is a doctor specializing in
the female reproductive organs. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that a girl make her first visit to a
gynecologist when she is between the ages of 13 and 15. Women should visit once
a year, or as needed, after that.
Your gynecologist will perform a Pap smear
and pelvic exam, as well as other needed tests. Some women use their
gynecologist as a PCP.
Questions you might ask your gynecologist include:
- How often do I need a Pap smear?
- Do I need a pelvic exam every visit?
- What type of birth control would work best for me?
- What STDs should I be screened for?
- I have severe pain during my period. Can you help?
- I’ve started spotting between periods. What does that mean?
Visiting an Obstetrician
An obstetrician is a doctor specializing in
pregnancy and childbirth. Most obstetricians are also gynecologists. However,
some obstetricians work only with pregnant patients.
Your obstetrician will guide you through the
entire process of pregnancy. This doctor will also help you manage any
Some questions you might consider asking your
- When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?
- How often do I need prenatal care?
- Am I having a high-risk pregnancy?
- How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
- What shouldn’t I eat during pregnancy?
- Should I schedule my labor?
- Should I have a vaginal birth or C-section?
- Can I have a vaginal birth after a C-section?
- Should I consider using a birthing center for my delivery?
Visiting a Dermatologist
A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes
in treating skin conditions. Dermatologists also treat conditions relating to
hair and nails. A dermatologist can help women manage conditions like:
- aging of the skin
A dermatologist can also conduct a full-body
skin check of moles. This is done to identify the early warning signs of
Questions you might ask your dermatologist include:
- What changes should I look for in my skin?
- Are there any moles I have to worry about?
- I get frequent skin rashes; how can I stop them?
- My skin is flaky. Can that be helped?
- How often do I need to get a mole checked?
- What is the best treatment for my skin condition?
Visiting the Ophthalmologist
An ophthalmologist is a doctor of medicine (M.D.)
who specializes in the treatment of eyes and related structures.
Ophthalmologists treat serious eye conditions that require surgery. You may
also see an ophthalmologist for regular eye exams and prescription lenses.
An optometrist is a healthcare professional
trained to deliver eye and vision care. Optometrists have a Doctor of Optometry
(D.O.) degree instead of an M.D. Optometrists generally act as your primary eye
care physician. You may visit one annually to get your vision checked. Most of
the time, an optometrist will be the one to prescribe any needed corrective
Questions you might ask an eye specialist include:
- How often do I need my vision screened?
- Should I be tested for glaucoma?
- What eye symptoms should I be worried about?
- I have floaters in my eyes. Is that dangerous?
- Is there any way I can protect my eyes from damage?
- Do I need bifocals?
Visiting the Dentist
Dentists take care of your teeth and provide
any needed oral health care. You should visit your dentist for a cleaning every
six months. You should get a checkup once a year.
Questions you might ask your dentist include:
- Should I be getting cleanings more often?
- What can I do to improve my dental health?
- Do you screen patients for oral cancer or oral HPV?
- Should I get screened for oral cancer?
- Should I use teeth whiteners?
- Is there any way to get protection from cavities?