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Do patients have a gender preference for their ObGyn?

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Although 53.2% of nearly 10,000 US women preferred a female over a male ObGyn, 38.5% had no gender preference, according to this systematic review and meta-analysis



Although multiple surveys have been published regarding patient gender preference when choosing an ObGyn, overall results have not been analyzed. To address this literature gap, Kyle J. Tobler, MD, and colleagues at the Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, searched multiple sources to provide a conglomerate analysis of patients’ gender preference when choosing an ObGyn. An abstract describing their study was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in May 2016 and presented at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 2016 Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting May 14−17, in Washington, DC.

A personal impetus for studying gender preference
The impetus for this project truly was initiated for Dr. Tobler when he was a 4th-year medical student. “I was trying to decide if Obstetrics and Gynecology was the right field for me,” he said. “I was discouraged by many people around me, who told me that men in ObGyn would not have a place, as female patients only wanted female ObGyns. And with the residency match at 60% to 70% women for ObGyn, it did seem that men would not have a place. Thus, I began searching the literature to verify if the question for gender preference for their ObGyn provider had been evaluated previously, and I found mixed results.” After medical school Dr. Tobler pursued this current meta-analysis to address the conflicting results.

Details of the study
Dr. Tobler and his colleagues explored PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO (American Psychological Association’s medical literature database), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (EBSCO Health’s database), Scopus (Elsevier’s abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature), and references of relevant articles. Included were 4,822 electronically-identified citations of English-language studies, including surveys administered to patients that specifically asked for gender preference of their ObGyn provider.

The researchers found that 23 studies met their inclusion criteria, comprising 14,736 patients. Overall, 8.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.08-0.09) of ObGyn patients reported a preference for a male provider, 50.2% (95% CI, 0.49-0.51) preferred a female provider, and 41.3% (95% CI, 0.40-0.42) reported no gender preference when choosing an ObGyn.

What about US patients?
A subanalysis of studies (n = 9,861) conducted in the United States from 1999 to 2008 (with the last search undertaken in April 2015) showed that 8.4% (95% CI, 0.08-0.09) preferred a male ObGyn, 53.2% (95% CI, 0.52-0.54) preferred a female ObGyn, and 38.5% (95% CI, 0.38-0.39) had no gender preference.

“We were surprised by the numbers,” comments Dr. Tobler. “The general trend demonstrated a mix between no preference or a preference for female providers, but not by a large margin.”

“We considered analyzing for age,” he said, “but most of the studies gave a mean or median age value and were widely distributed. We were able, however, to break our analysis down into regions where one would expect a very strong preference for female providers—the Middle East and Africa. But in fact results were not much different than for Western countries. Our results for this subanalysis of Middle Eastern countries and Nigeria (n = 1,951) demonstrated that 8.7% of women (95% CI, 4.1-13.3) preferred a male provider, 51.2% (95% CI, 17.2-85.1) preferred a female provider, and 46.9% (95% CI, 9.3-84.5) had no gender preference.”

Updated May 20, 2016.

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