Male or Female OB-GYN?

Male Female OB GYN

Many factors go into choosing the right OB/GYN to manage your pregnancy and delivery. The right doctor will not only meet various practical needs but is ideally a person you trust and feel comfortable with. For many women that can mean choosing a female OB/GYN.

A 2015 study showed varying gender preferences when it came to choosing an OB/GYN, with 8.4 percent of the women questioned preferring a male doctor, 53.2 percent preferring a female doctor, and 38.5 percent having no gender preference.  While 38.5 percent did not have a gender preference, the majority did not prefer a male doctor.

Male doctors have only managed pregnancy and birth for a relatively short period in history. As far back as ancient Egypt, women’s gynecological exams were performed exclusively by women while births were attended by midwives. That remained the norm until the early 1800s, when medical advances led to medical professionals managing pregnancy and birth. Since women could not attend medical school, the doctors were men, although male doctors were often accompanied by a female assistant.

Today, 58 percent of all medical students are female, with women accounting for about 80 percent of all OB/GYN residents. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology predicts that in a decade, two thirds of OB/GYN doctors will be women.

There are a few reasons that a woman might prefer to have a female OB/GYN manage a pregnancy and delivery. First,  a woman may assume that a female doctor shares some experiences with her and can better understand how she might feel in certain situations. Some women may also feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about the prospect of being examined by a male doctor.

That preference is not necessarily going to result in the choice of a female OB/GYN. A study published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine found that although women might start the selection process with a preference for a female OB/GYN, gender was not the number one priority for making a final decision.

Whatever gender preference you begin the selection process with, it’s smart to meet a few doctors before making your final decision. Each doctor is an individual and a patient may find it easier to relate to one doctor than to another. Also, regardless of gender, a doctor might have views about pregnancy and childbirth that don’t align with yours.

Before scheduling your first pregnancy exam, make consultation appointments with the doctors you are considering. If you like, bring a friend or family member along. Note whether you feel comfortable talking to the doctor, whether the doctor shares your views about pregnancy and birth, and whether your doctor takes your concerns seriously. Consultations can help you determine what you want in a doctor. If you’re determined to hire a female OB/GYN and only interview women, you might still prefer the views of one doctor over those of another.

Here are some considerations to help you decide which doctor is right for you.

  1. Is your doctor’s office convenient to your work and home? Visits become more frequent as a pregnancy progresses.
  2. Do the office hours work well with your schedule?
  3. When can you call your doctor and how can he be reached for emergencies?
  4. Is the doctor covered by your insurance?
  5. Does the doctor have all the necessary qualifications? Is he or she experienced, knowledgeable, competent? OB/GYNs must pass a test administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology to be board certified.
  6. Which hospitals does your doctor have admitting privileges with?
  7. What are your doctor’s views on childbirth and pregnancy? How well do those views fit with your own? For example, ask about your doctor’s criteria for performing a C-section. How does your doctor feel about subjects such as breastfeeding or circumcision.
  8. Will your doctor be available around the time of your delivery? In case your doctor is not available, who will deliver your baby?
  9. Do you feel comfortable talking to the doctor? Do you feel comfortable sharing your concerns. Does the doctor listen and seem to honor your concerns?
  10. Does your doctor explain things in a way you understand? A Google search should not be required after your doctor offers an explanation.

Research has not demonstrated any difference in the quality of care given by male and female OB/GYNs, but if you feel more comfortable with a woman doctor, there are plenty to choose from.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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