5 Ways Your Ob-Gyn Can Help You Stay Healthy
Ob-gyns can do more for you than you may realize.
The earlier we find issues with your health, the easier it is to treat them. If we can stop problems from happening in the first place, even better. That’s why prevention is such a critical part of health care—whether we’re talking about cancer or the flu.
To stay healthy throughout your lifetime, you will need a series of services to prevent and check for disease. This means scheduling regular appointments with your primary care doctor. It also means seeing specialists like ob-gyns. And at certain times in life (especially in your 20s, 30s, and 40s), it’s common to see your ob-gyn more often than any other doctor.
When you think of seeing an ob-gyn, you may not realize how much we can accomplish together. Here are just five of the many ways an ob-gyn can help you stay healthy.
1. Routine care visits
Whether you’re a college student or well past menopause, your regular ob-gyn visits are a time to ask questions about your reproductive health. Your ob-gyn can be a resource for birth control, prepregnancy and prenatal care, relief from menopause symptoms, and more.
These checkups also are the setting for many health screenings (though they can happen at other times too). A big one is checking for breast cancer, depending on your age and health history. Cervical cancer screening can be done during a routine visit. This screening can detect abnormal changes in your cervix before cervical cancer develops. If you have symptoms or risk factors, your ob-gyn can test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) too.
Due for a flu shot? Still need a COVID-19 vaccine? Ob-gyns often can help here too. They can give you vaccinations to protect against many infections and conditions, including HPV, pneumonia, meningitis, and whooping cough.
Keep in mind that some vaccines are best given at specific times of the year. For example, you want to get your yearly flu shot in the early fall. And some vaccines (such as the flu and Tdap shots) are very important for pregnant women. Talk with your ob-gyn about which vaccines you should get and when.
3. Mental health care
One in three women will experience an anxiety disorder in her lifetime. Depression and anxiety also tend to go together.
As a society, we’re getting better at accepting the importance of mental health. Many doctors, including ob-gyns, are being trained to recognize signs of anxiety and depression. With a few questions, we can help gauge how you’re feeling emotionally.
While all women should be screened annually for anxiety and depression, it is especially important for pregnant women and new moms. You are at higher risk if you had a complication during your pregnancy or delivery, such as preeclampsia or an emergency cesarean birth.
Think of your ob-gyn’s office as a safe space to share if you’re feeling down or worried. We can talk about the best way for you to get help, prescribe medications if needed, and refer you to other specialists for additional support.
4. Urinary incontinence
If you leak urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or exercise, you have what’s called urinary incontinence. It can really disrupt your daily life. Understandably, you may be hesitant to talk about this problem. You may not even know that treatments are available. That’s why ob-gyns also screen patients for urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence can have many causes, and it becomes more common with age. With proper diagnosis, your ob-gyn can steer you toward treatment options. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, physical therapy, medication, or surgery.
[From Leaking Urine to Sudden Urges to Go: An Ob-Gyn Talks Bladder Control Problems]
5. Long-term health after pregnancy
If you’ve been pregnant, your ob-gyn has a unique perspective on your long-term health. Did you develop gestational diabetes? That increases your chance of type 2 diabetes later in life. Same with high blood pressure and your future risk for heart disease.
If you’ve had gestational diabetes, you should be tested for diabetes 4 to 12 weeks after birth, and every 3 years after that. If you test positive for diabetes, your ob-gyn can refer you to an endocrinologist, a type of doctor who treats diabetes.
If you are at risk for heart disease, your ob-gyn can check for early warning signs. Your ob-gyn may prescribe medication to manage high blood pressure or refer you to a specialist.
The same healthy habits that were important during pregnancy—such as eating right and exercising—can help you stay ahead of diabetes and heart disease.
A plan for prevention
Whether you see an ob-gyn or another health care professional for primary care, what matters is that you get the recommended screenings based on your age and health history. Most health insurance plans will cover preventive health screenings at no cost to you.
Remember, your entire health care team shares the same goal: keeping you healthy for life.
Published: December 2021
Last reviewed: December 2021
Copyright 2023 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.