Sex Differences Among Obstetrician-Gynecologists: A Review of Survey Studies

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Whether practice differences exist between the sexes is a question of clinical and educational significance. The obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) workforce has been shifting to majority women. An examination of sex differences in ob-gyn practice contributes to the discussion about how the changing workforce may impact women’s healthcare. We sought to review survey studies to assess whether there are specific topics in which differences in attitudes, opinions, and practice patterns between male and female ob-gyns are apparent.

We conducted a systematic review to identify all survey studies of ob-gyns from the years 2002–2012. A total of 93 studies were reviewed to identify statements of sex differences and categorized by conceptual theme.

Sex differences were identified in a number of areas. In general, women report more supportive attitudes toward abortion. A number of differences were identified with regard to workforce issues, such as women earning 23% less than their male counterparts as reported in 1 study and working an average of 4.1 fewer hours per week than men in another study. Men typically provide higher self-ratings than women in a number of areas. Other noted findings include men tending toward more pharmaceutical therapies and women making more referrals for medical conditions.

Although a number of areas of difference were identified, the impact of such differences is yet to be determined. Additional research may help to clarify the reasons for such differences and their potential impact on patients.

Target Audience

Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians

Learning Objectives

After completing this CME activity, physicians should be better able to determine how the relevance of studying sex differences among physicians, specifically ob-gyns, can help improve patient care, assess whether there are topical areas in which male and female ob-gyns have reported different beliefs, practices, attitudes, and opinions, and examine how the limitations of survey studies and systematic reviews can affect the findings of these studies and reviews.

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