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.
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 overall health?
- Am I at high risk for any chronic diseases?
- What screening tests do I need this year?
- What tests will I need next year?
- Should I get a flu shot or other vaccination?
- Are antibiotics necessary to treat this infection?
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?
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 pregnancy complications.
Some questions you might consider asking your obstetrician include:
- 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?
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 melanoma.
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?
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 eyewear.
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?
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: