Is There a Place for Male OBGYNs?

Is There a Place for Male OBGYNs?

Anna Dabrowski, Sr. High Writer

The age of 21 evokes excitement for many, as it represents the legal drinking age in the United States. However, for women, the age of 21 ushers in a state of anxiety. Doctors generally recommend that a woman receives her first pap smear at the age of 21, and with the more obvious stress regarding the invasive procedure, the difficult process of choosing an OBGYN only compiles the emotions. If you have consumed any sort of media pre-dating 1990, you may have noticed that the obstetricians featured were mostly male. Now, the opposite can be said. The rapid increase of female OBGYNs, the onslaught of male-doctor horror stories, and the general decreasing number of women who will see a male OBGYN, all raise a question. Is there still a place for men in the field of gynecology? Currently, a movement of women who state a passionate “NO” to this question dominates. I believe, however, that men still play a valuable role in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. 

When pulling up the staff web-page for any gynecology clinic, you will most likely make one observation. The doctors over the age of fifty are probably all male and the younger doctors are mostly female. An article written by Soumya Karlamangla, health columnist for the LA Times, details this disparity. Karlamangla’s piece, “Male doctors are disappearing from gynecology. Not everybody is thrilled about it”, uses a few stats to quantify the gender breakdown in the field of gynecology. She states that “In 1970, 7% of gynecologists were women. Now 59% are” (6). This statistical jump takes place over only a few decades, making it hugely significant. Many believe this trend will only grow wider because 76% of OB-GYN residency applicants were female in 2017 and 82% of current gynecology residents are women (19, 28). This disparity indicates a very real preference for female gynecologists. Women today are more likely to request a female doctor or even insist upon male medical students leaving the exam room citing their own comfort levels (18). A case study conducted at the University of Health Sciences in Maryland administered a survey to almost 15,000 patients and prompted them to answer questions regarding their female care providers. The abstract of the study, “Gender Preference of the Obstetrician Gynecologist Provider”, concluded that 50% of the women surveyed stated they had a preference for female OB-GYNs, around 40% said they had zero preference, and a small 10% claimed that they preferred male gynecologists (3). This statistical and anecdotal movement has led some women to assert that there is no place for men in the field of gynecology. What patient would actually prefer a male doctor when presented the option for a female one? The answer, many. 

The most commonly stated reason that women provide when asked why they prefer a female doctor is simply feeling more comfortable with someone of the same gender. An NPR article titled “Male OB-GYNs Are Rare, But Is That A Problem?” acknowledges the “special connection” between female OB-GYNs and their patients. Merriam, a third year gynecology resident says “You just, you can feel what they feel and understand why they feel certain ways. I do feel a special bond” (Morning Edition 4). If this simple kindredness of gender accounts for why the majority of women choose female gynecologists, the argument against males becoming OB-GYNs becomes immediately nullified. Plenty of transgender males do not undergo gender reassignment surgery, and thus still should see an OB-GYN for routine examinations. Although it is impossible to count the amount of transgender men in the United States, a commonly accepted statistic states that 1.4 million people in general identify as trans in the United States, which is a massive group of people that are definitely statistically relevant. In fact, a National Transgender Discrimination Survey cited in a Vox article, “Myth 35: All trans people medically transition”, concluded that “72% of trans men claim they do not ever want full genital reconstruction surgery” (Lopez 2). The article aims to debunk common misconceptions regarding the trans community, including the idea that someone must undergo genital reconstruction surgery to be considered “truly trans”. This is not true, proven by the statistic, meaning the vast majority of the transgender male population should still see an OB-GYN. If a generally accepted idea exists that patients feel more comfortable seeing a doctor of the same gender, then men definitely still hold an important place in the profession for the purpose of healthcare for transgender men. 

Still, women could argue that not necessarily the gender of their doctor makes them more comfortable, but the empathy that culminates from the shared experiences of womanhood. Conchita Beronilla, a patient interviewed for the LA Times article, said “she believed the male OB-GYN who cared for her while she was in labor couldn’t understand her pain. She wanted to sock him in the face” (43). This is true, men do not experience periods, birth, or menopause, but one could argue that this lack of experience could make male gynecologists more empathetic. Women have presumably experienced shared pains, such as menstrual cramps, labor, ect. So while a female gynecologist could use her own pain as a reference for another woman’s pain, and make a biased assumption based on her own pain tolerance, men have no reference point for a woman’s female pain. One could conclude that because men have never experienced such pain, they may act more empathetic or consider a woman’s complaints more seriously. In her previously discussed LA Times piece, Karlamangla cites recent studies that concluded some women prefer male OB-GYNs for this reason stating “those women say (male gynecologists) are gentler and better listeners and take their concerns more seriously, perhaps to overcome stereotypes” (47). If a woman wants a doctor who has had similar experiences, then that is her own prerogative, but many women could prefer a doctor who solely makes medical decisions based on the patient’s described symptoms alone, rather than previous personal experiences. 

The most serious arguments working against male gynecologists is sexism, power imbalance, and sexual assault. Many women feel that their male OB-GYNs act patronizing and demeaning. An article titled “Sexism from Male Doctors is Still Happening – and Needs to Stop” ,written by Annelise Mabe for Healthline, shares “horror stories” from women, including herself, who have had male gynecologists. Microaggressions include doctors commenting on women’s sex lives in a negative way, joking about the infamous “husband stitch”, and down playing sexual assault (9, 21). These stories are highly traumatic and should be taken with the utmost seriousness. However, I do not believe you can exclude an entire gender from a profession, essentially punishing the whole for the actions of a few. Mabe also discusses the large percentage of women who have experienced sexual assault and may not feel comfortable with a male doctor for this reason. This argument does not account for the amount of women who have been sexually assaulted by other women, and may prefer a male doctor for the very same reason. A Scientific American Article, “Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previously Known,” written by Lara Stemple summarizes the findings from four years of the National Crime Victimization Survey. The article states that “96 percent of women who report rape or sexual assault in the NCVS were abused by men” (7). This means that four out of every 100 of the women who completed the survey were assaulted by another woman, which is a relevant and moderately large demographic to ignore. To deprive this group of women from the option to have a male gynecologist would only enhance their trauma.

All of these points and counterpoints really water down to the idea of a choice. To exclude 50% of the population from a profession, is to miss out on any beneficial advancements these men could provide. Everyone has different life experiences, and to exclude the experiences of those who are in the minority for the sake of the majority is not ethical. Trans men exist, woman on woman assault exists, and women who simply don’t care about gender when picking a physician exist. An article written for Health Partners titled “How to find the best OB-GYN for you: Insider tips for choosing a good match” advises that women remember one thing when picking a gynecologist. Megan Schmidt, the author and a practicing OB-GYN, says “trust your instincts” above everything else (12). Every woman should be allowed to trust their own judgment, whether that means choosing a female or a male OBGYN. 


Works Cited

Karlamangla, Soumya. “Male doctors are disappearing from gynecology. Not everyone is thrilled 

about it.” Los Angeles Times, 7 March 2018,

male-gynos-20180307-htmlstory.html. Accessed 12 March 2021


Lopez, German. “Myth #5: All trans people medically transition.” Vox, 14 November 2018,

gery-medical. Accessed 12 March 2021


Mabe, Annalise. “Sexism from Male Doctors Is Still Happening – and Needs to Stop.” 

Healthline, Summer 2019,

from-male-doctors-is-still-happening-and-needs-to-stop#1. Accessed 12 March 2021


Olgin, Alex. “Male OBGYNs Are Rare, But Is That A Problem?” National Public Radio, 

12 April 2019,

male-ob-gyns-are-rare-but-is-that-a-problem. Accessed 12 March 2021


Schmitt, Megan. “How to find the best OB-GYN for you: Insider tips for choosing a good 

match.” HealthPartners,

the-right-ob-gyn-for-you/. Accessed 12 March 2021


Stemple, Lara. “Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previosly Known.” 

Scientific American, 10 October 2017,


Accessed 12 March 2021


Tobler, Kyle. “Gender Preference of the Obstetrician Gynecologist Provider.” Obstetrics and 

Gynecology, May 2016,

gender_Preference_of_the_Obstetrician_Gynecologist.143.aspx#:~:text=CONCLUSION%3A,%E2%80%9Cno%20specific%20gender%20preference.%E2%80%9D. Accessed 12 March 2021