When to see a gynecologist instead of your Primary Care Doctor

Many women see their primary care doctor for annual physicals and some may even elect to have their primary care doctor take care of their pap smears and pelvic exams. Since there is a definite overlap in some of the services provided by a primary care physician and a gynecologist, it can be tough to know when you should be seeing a gynecologist instead of your primary care physician. 

In cases where you have no gynecological concerns or complaints, then choosing between your primary care physician and your gynecologist is simply a matter of comfort and convenience. For some, it is easier to only visit a single doctor, while others may want to have a specific doctor dealing with their gynecological health. 

However, there may be some cases where seeing a gynecologist instead of your primary care physician is recommended. This is simply because a gynecologist specializes in women’s health, while primary care physicians have a broader focus. Some reasons to see a gynecologist over a primary care physician include: 

Abnormal Pap Smears

Having a pap smear come back as abnormal doesn’t automatically mean you have cervical cancer. In fact, there are a variety of things that can cause an abnormal pap smear result. Still, your primary care physician may recommend visiting your local gynecologist to determine why the results were abnormal and possibly have another smear. Even if your primary care doctor does not refer you, it is recommended to see a gynecologist regarding abnormal pap smears. 

Specialized Care

woman talking to her gynecologist

As mentioned before, primary care physicians have a broad scope of focus, while gynecologists focus exclusively on women’s health. This means that gynecologists may have information that your primary physician doesn’t. For example, while your primary physician can diagnose and monitor conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and thyroid disorders, a gynecologist can educate you about how these conditions affect your reproductive system and sex life. 

You are having problems with infertility

If you have been trying to get pregnant for awhile and have not been successful, then it may be helpful to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist instead of your primary care doctor. This is because gynecologists have extended knowledge about the various ins and outs of the female reproductive system. They are also able to provide infertility treatments and help you to identify what is causing your infertility. 

You Have Gynecological Complaints

If you are having problems related to any part of your reproductive system or related to your periods, then it may be time to see a gynecologist. While your primary care physician may be able to give you a general idea of what is going on, only a gynecologist can make sure you get an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment for the condition. 

For a second opinion

If you feel like there is something “not quite right” about your reproductive system, then it is recommended to see a gynecologist even if your primary care physician says everything is fine. In getting a second opinion, your gynecologist may be able to detect something your primary care physician couldn’t. 

Doctor taking with patient

Dr. Geoffrey Zann is a Certified Robotic Da Vinci Surgeon, Board-certified by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a Diplomat of the American Board Obstetrics of Gynecology.  He has been a member of the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the Hugh R. K. Barber Obstetric and Gynecologic Society.