Accommodating Immigrant Women's Preferences for Female Health Care Providers

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To investigate obstetricians' perspectives of the importance, effect, and challenges of providing intrapartum care to immigrant women who request a female obstetrician.


A focused ethnography was conducted at a large teaching hospital, which serves a high proportion of immigrant clientele (predominantly North or East African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Data collection comprised single, semistructured interviews with a purposive sample of 20 obstetric health care providers (10 resident and 10 staff obstetricians). Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were managed with Quirkos and analyzed using thematic analysis.


A total of 13 female and seven male physicians were interviewed. Physicians recognized the validity of immigrant women's preference and requests for female health care providers and expressed sympathy for them. However, they were also resistant and expressed several concerns about accommodating these requests, including fear of perpetuating and exacerbating gender inequalities in medicine, the extent to which patient decision-making was coercion-free, the ability of the health system to meet the demands, and implications for training and quality of care.


Although physicians were sympathetic to immigrant women's requests for female obstetricians, they placed greater value on maintaining gender equity both within the medical profession and in wider society and resisted accommodating gender-of-health-care-provider requests. Our qualitative study suggests a need for greater research to inform policy that meets the professional and personal values of both physicians and patients.

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