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OB/GYN and Primary Care: Why Women Need Both

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For many women of reproductive age, their OB/GYN might be the only physician they see on an annual basis, if they have no other health issues. Dr. Jennifer L. Lapeyrolerie, an OB/GYN physician who has been practicing at Touro for nearly two decades, sees this with many of her patients.

TouroMarch2016“A patient develops a certain type of intimacy with her OB/GYN,” says Dr. Lapeyrolerie, “and that often leads to an expectation that she can speak to us about basically all of her medical needs, even those outside of our scope of medicine, because of that level of comfort.”

Dr. Lapeyrolerie says that while there is plenty of “overlap” between the type of care her field offers and that of primary care, today’s medicine has become more specialized for good reason.

“As an OB/GYN, I might be the point of entry into the healthcare system for many patients, which is why we monitor all patients for basic vitals like blood pressure,” Dr. Lapeyrolerie says. “But if we see any abnormalities there, we refer patients to a primary care physician who can treat certain issues more accurately. Similarly, though many primary care doctors perform pelvic exams, they might not be as proficient as an OB/GYN because we have a specific type of training and repeat exposure to certain female issues. When it comes to healthcare, it is important to consider the scope of a specific practice to avoid the chance of misdiagnosis or missing something subtle.”

Dr. Lapeyrolerie says that she will often find herself referring patients to a primary care doctor on behalf of their partners. “Many of my patients will tell me that their husband or partner has not been to a doctor lately, and this is of particular concern if my patient is interested in family planning or experiencing any fertility issues,” she says.

Dr. Lapeyrolerie suggests that patients establish medical relationships with both an OB/GYN and a primary care physician so they can seek proper care for any medical concerns that may arise.

Health issues and concerns to discuss with your OB/GYN:
Anything relating to obstetrics
Contraception and family planning
Issues within the spectrum of reproductive endocrinology, including menstrual cycle, menopause or infertility
Sexually transmitted infections
Breast exams

Health issues and concerns to discuss with your primary care physician:
Cardiovascular issues, such as hypertension and cholesterol
Diabetes
Broader spectrum gastro-intestinal issues
Regular screenings

“When treating a patient for certain symptoms, I have to look at her as a whole person,” Dr. Lapeyrolerie says. “So I reinforce the things that her primary care doctor is covering, so, that together, we can work as a team to ensure our patients’ health.”