A woman’s health care needs change throughout life. Still, consistent care from a trusted primary care provider, obstetrician-gynecologist and other specialists can help ensure that you get treatment for lifelong health concerns, and find out how to prevent future issues.
Here are the main types of doctors women should visit regularly for their health, as well as some other specialists that you may have to include as part of your health care team.
A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women’s health issues. An obstetrician specializes in the care of women who are pregnant, including their labor and delivery, says Dr. Eva Chalas, an OB/GYN and professor with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Long Island School of Medicine and former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You may often hear these specialists referred to as OB/GYNs. Not all gynecologists are obstetricians, but all obstetricians are gynecologists.
An OB/GYN can handle the following:
- Advise you on birth control methods.
- Perform breast and pelvic exams.
- Perform Pap smears to check for cervical cancer.
- Provide breast cancer screening.
- Screen for sexually transmitted infections.
- Treat sexual problems like low libido.
- Help with planning for pregnancy and answer fertility-related questions.
- Help with perimenopause and menopause care.
An eye doctor.
Just like your oral health, your eye health can reveal early signs of whole-body health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists are eye doctors who can perform eye exams and prescribe contact lenses or glasses as needed. In your 20s, you should have at least one complete eye exam, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends. In your 30s, you should have two complete eye exams. You should also get a baseline eye exam at age 40. This is because as you age, your eyes will most likely experience more changes. Ask your eye doctor how often you should get eye exams beyond age 40. You should visit an eye doctor more frequently if you wear glasses or contacts, or you have a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
Although primary care providers can do annual skin exams, they may recommend that you see a dermatologist if you are at a higher risk for skin cancer. Risk factors include having fairer skin, many moles or a family history of skin cancer.
This specialist in digestive diseases may become part of your routine care starting at age 45, which is the latest recommended age to start screening for colon cancer, Darius says. Gastroenterologists can perform a colonoscopy to assess for colon cancer and provide follow-up treatment as needed. Some gastroenterologists will prefer surgeries such as bariatric surgery for weight loss, or hernia repair surgery.