Do you really need a gynecologist?

You’re a healthy woman who isn’t planning to get pregnant in the near future. You see your primary care doctor once a year. You’ve got your preventive health care needs covered, right?

Maybe not. Should you be seeing a gynecologist annually, too?

Health enews asked Dr. David Rojas and Dr. Megan Graber, OB/GYNs with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, to answer some common questions about who needs to see a gynecologist, and how often. Here’s what they had to say:

If I see my primary care doctor every year, do I need to see a gynecologist, too?

Dr. Rojas: Yes. It may be useful for women to see a gynecologist in addition to a primary care doctor.

Both your PCP and gynecologist may offer services such as Pap smears, treatment of infections and contraception. As women’s health specialists, gynecologists will be able to address more complicated gynecological issues as well as possibly offer a wider array of contraceptive options. Your primary care doctor can inform you as to what types of contraception will require a visit with a gynecologist.

There are many different recommendations out there. How often do I really need to see my gynecologist?

Dr. Graber: That depends on your age. Teens should see a gynecologist once or twice between ages 13 and 17 to discuss sexually transmitted infections, contraception and other questions they may have as their bodies change. Beginning at age 21, women should visit their gynecologists annually.

Experts recommend women start getting regular Pap smears at age 21. If you’re healthy and have normal results, you may not need the test every year, but your gynecologist can still provide other important wellness checks, including a pelvic exam, a breast exam and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Your gynecologist also can answer any questions you have about gynecological issues, birth control or fertility.

I’m not planning to get pregnant anytime soon. Should I still talk to my gynecologist about my fertility?

Dr. Rojas: We can offer preconception counseling for women who aren’t interested in becoming pregnant just yet, but may want to have a baby in the future. We help identify factors that may be barriers to fertility or that may put a pregnancy at higher risk. Addressing these issues before pregnancy starts can lead to better outcomes for moms and babies.

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