Gender and the OB/GYN

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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4 thoughts on “Gender and the OB/GYN

  1. I started out going to a female ob/gyn but have seen a male gynecologist as well. At first, I thought I would only comfortable with a woman doctor because I’m shy about this sort of thing. After seeing the male doc (and having everything poked and prodded to hell and back) I’m comfortable with either one. This is most definitely one of those things that’s a personal preference and you may have to go to one of each before you can figure out which one works for you.

  2. Actually, I have to admit, the female ob/gyns I have had were more gentle with the actual pap smear and pelvic exam, but the male ob/gyns seem more proficient at checking my breasts. Go figure! It’s hit and miss with everything else, though. The one I visited last seems to be the best of them all. She is also, by far, the youngest of the five I’ve seen. Interesting….

  3. I tend to go for female doctors in general, but I chose a female ob/gyn (actually the office only employs women for every position) because I feel ob/gyn stuff is kind of like “girl talk.” I have to talk about my body, my sexual activity; the kind of stuff that I’m just more comfortable talking about with a woman. I get nervous when male doctors ask me personal questions, even in a family practitioner way. Just my thing though.

  4. i started seeing an ob when i was 16. i was vehement about having a woman because, at that age, the idea of a man checking out my situation, even in a purely medical sense, scared the ever-loving piss out of me. even now, at 22, i still prefer a lady doctor. i’m also slightly afraid that if i switch to a male doctor, i’ll find him attractive, which would make the whole looking up my va-jay-jay thing incredibly awkward.

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