Perhaps each year you’ve been going in for your wellness visits with a primary care physician, and now you’re pregnant. Should you switch to an OB-GYN?
Or maybe you’ve been seeing an OB-GYN for your regular annual wellness visits, and you’ve started to develop some other health concerns. Should you see someone else such as a primary care physician? Do you need to see both a primary care physician and an OB-GYN?
The answer: It depends on the patient and the situation, said Dr. Kelly Pucillo, a family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.
As ThedaCare recognizes National Women’s Health Week, May 14-20, 2023, care teams want to help women feel empowered to access health care that is unique to them, and make their health a priority.
As women consider which option is best for them, it helps to know the ways in which the roles of a primary care physician and OB-GYN differ. The term primary care can refer to pediatrics (treat children only), internal medicine (treat adults only), or family medicine (treat patients of all ages). In addition to physicians, your primary care team may include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Family medicine physicians also receive training in obstetrics, and many continue to offer obstetric care in practice. Some family medicine physicians have gone on to complete an obstetric fellowship that includes training to perform cesarean sections. If your pregnancy is low-risk, your family medicine physician may be able to provide care for you before, during and after your pregnancy.
Family medicine physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can also perform regular women’s wellness visits that may include a breast exam, pelvic exam and pap smear to screen for cervical cancer. They can also manage your chronic disease conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
If a patient requires more complex care, the primary care team can refer that individual to the appropriate specialist to help treat that condition.
“Most people can start with their primary care team,” Dr. Pucillo said. “We help determine the diagnosis and often start treatment. If a specialist is needed, we can help navigate the next steps a patient needs to take to receive that specialized care.”
OB-GYN physicians are trained to focus specifically on women’s health issues. They can care for patients who have gynecological health issues such as endometriosis, fertility concerns, menstrual issues, menopause symptoms, or those who may have high-risk pregnancies. High-risk pregnancies can include women with chronic health problems such as asthma, obesity, heart disorders or other issues; a history of pregnancy-related disorders or premature births; or multiple gestation (such as a twin pregnancy).
For those patients who need surgical care, OB-GYN physicians are also trained to perform surgeries including C-sections, hysterectomies (removal of the uterus), oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries), salpingectomy (removal of the fallopian tubes), tubal ligations (sterilization), removal of fibroids, surgeries for endometriosis, and other types of surgery.
OB-GYN physicians and nurse practitioners can also perform regular women’s wellness visits that may include a breast exam, pelvic exam and pap smear to screen for cervical cancer. They can also can make referrals as needed to manage any non-OB-GYN-related issues that may develop.
Regardless of what type of physician women choose to see, it’s important for them to stay on top of receiving routine preventive care throughout their lifetime.
“As physicians, we’re here to support all our patients,” said Dr. Pucillo. “Women play so many important roles in our lives. We want to be sure they stay healthy, and preventive care can help keep disease away or detect problems early so that treatment is more effective. We are here to help protect women’s health and get them care they need to live their best lives.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.