Monday Medical: OB/GYNs and women’s health |

Monday Medical: OB/GYNs and women’s health

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Editor’s note: This story is part 2 of a 2-part series on women’s health. Part 1 focuses on the role primary care.

When it comes to women’s care, OB/GYNs aren’t just about delivering babies: they play an important role in many facets of women’s health.

“OB/GYN physicians are specialists in women’s health,” said Dr. Elaine Stickrath, an obstetrician and gynecologist at UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics in Steamboat Springs and Craig. “This is our focus in every encounter.”

What types of health issues do OB/GYN’s address?

At any age, an OB/GYN can be a helpful resource.

For young women, that may include management of heavy or irregular periods, confidential counseling on contraception and family planning, screening for infections and age-appropriate cervical cancer screening.

As women age, the focus may turn to family planning services, pre-conception and pregnancy care, management of gynecological conditions such as fibroids and ovarian cysts, and continued age-appropriate cervical cancer screening.

Later, common focuses include menopause and abnormal bleeding.

“Later in life, we are experts in managing abnormal uterine bleeding, hormone management through menopause and pelvic health,” Stickrath said.

There are benefits to building a relationship with an OB/GYN over time.

“Because we take care of women throughout life, we often develop relationships with our patients that are unique,” Stickrath said. “Patients often feel most comfortable with having sensitive exams in our office.”

What areas of care are unique to OB/GYNs?

“We are often referred patients for abnormal bleeding, ovarian cysts, fibroids, hormone management, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis and pelvic pain,” Stickrath said. “Patients are always welcome to schedule directly with us for any women’s health issue.”

OB/GYNs also provide surgical management of women’s health issues, including hysterectomies and removal of endometriosis and ovarian cysts.

Can a woman see both an OB/GYN and a primary care physician?

Check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage, but many women are able to see a women’s health specialist for annual gynecologic exams, along with their primary care provider.

“I think it is important, particularly in later life, to have both a primary care physician and an OB/GYN,” Stickrath said. “We each have our own area of expertise and can help women with different aspects of their health care.”

While women may sometimes start to rely on an OB/GYN provider as their main health provider during childbearing years, it is helpful to continue to see a primary care physician.

“Just as I would not expect a primary care provider to be an expert in all areas of women’s health, OB/GYN physicians may not be the best provider to manage all the health conditions a woman may experience, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol,” Stickrath said.

Primary care providers and OB/GYN providers stay connected and communicate directly when needed to offer the best care possible.

“This may be necessary if we are planning a surgery or if there is an issue that we are both working on together with the patient,” Stickrath said. “We see it is as a partnership to provide the best care for women.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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