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Gender and the OB/GYN

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:12am 1 Comment

I have often heard small clusters of young women, and sometimes not-as-young women, discussing the issue of whether it is better to have a female gynecologist, a male gynecologist, or if it does not matter at all.  Having been to five gynecologists in my life, 2 male and 3 female, I have my own established set of opinions.  But, what have studies shown to be the true pros and cons of consulting a female ob/gyn versus a male ob/gyn or vice versa?

A 2001 survey performed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ( ACOG ) found that 47% of those surveyed specifically preferred a female gynecologist.  37% had no preference and only 15% preferred a male ob/gyn.  Women specifically cite several important factors for these indicated choices.  For women preferring female ob/gyns, many indicate that they lean this way because they feel a woman could uniquely understand their feelings, especially in the event that something went wrong.  I have heard it said that, “Going to a male gynecologist is like going to an auto mechanic who has never owned a car.”

Many women have no preference between male and female ob/gyns because they feel, so long as the doctor has excellent skills, empathy and “understanding feelings” are not as important.  Some even say that men are completely capable of sympathizing with their female patients and that just because an ob/gyn is a female does not automatically mean she will be understanding or compassionate.

Women who prefer male gynecologists argue several different points.  One point brought up is that men can be more objective to the female reproductive tract and will not react as emotionally.  (I have to say, personally, I think this is hogwash.)  Another is that older women have been going to a specific gynecologist so long, since men populated virtually the whole field, that she would not feel comfortable switching.  I have heard one woman say that her male ob/gyn is so grandfatherly and reassuring that she would not trust her body with anyone else.  (This is not to say that this woman would not prefer a grandmotherly ob/gyn had she encountered such an ob/gyn before a grandfatherly one.)

Also, religious factors sometimes play into a woman’s choice of gender in choosing an ob/gyn.  Deeply religious Jews, Muslims, and Christians are often led to choose a female in an effort to preserve modesty.  Thus, it is possible that religious women choose women ob/gyns more often than men ob/gyns, though I have not seen specific numbers on this.

More subtle, psychological factors can also play into a gendered choice of an ob/gyn.  For instance, some women choose female ob/gyns because they do not wish to make their husband, boyfriend, father, or other male loved one suspicious, angry, or concerned.  I do not know of any specific studies that have been done on this phenomenon, but anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a steady portion of men who have some sort of resentment or unhappiness that their wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mother, or otherwise is cared for by a male ob/gyn.

So, really, I conclude that each woman has her own particular reasons for choosing an ob/gyn.  Women are not generally quantifiable as either preferring female, preferring male, or having no preference in choosing an ob/gyn.  Now, tell me what you think?  What do you consider in the way of gender (if anything) when choosing your ob/gyn?  Don’t be shy.


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About a month ago I read on the WEB MD website about a woman who thought that only females should be OB-GYNS.  There was a length discussion about this.  I think it's a matter of what you are comfortable with. 

I don't like taking my clothing off for any doctor, be it male or female.  I don't like to be touched by people I don't know. I'm not a prude (I've had sex with men) but just don't like being touched period. 

I went to a woman doctor for a pap smear and it was terrible.  They used the wrong size on me (someone who had many children) and it felt like I was being raped.  The walls in the room were thin and everyone in the waiting room heard the comments that they made which were to the effect, "Something wrong with you.  Have you ever had sex with a man before?" "You have a very small vagina."  I can not tell you how humilated I was.  When I got to my car, I cried and cried.  I didn't get another test for 5 years.  I went to another woman doctor.  This was little better but it was done roughly and it was very uncomfortable. 

Ten years later I went to a male gynecologist and I had no problem.  I wished I had gone to this gynecologist a long time ago.  Finally I had answers to why sex was often uncomfortable for me.  I wished someone had told me this a long time ago but I was so ashamed and embarrassed about this that I blamed myself. 

Because we have so many sexual hang-ups in this country, this is why some people sadly have problems (mine was minor compared to others) and they don't talk  to anyone.

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