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

Farrow, Victoria A. MA*†; Anderson, Britta PhD; Chescheir, Nancy C. MD; Schulkin, Jay PhD§

Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: March 2013 - Volume 68 - Issue 3 - p 235–253
doi: 10.1097/OGX.0b013e318286f0aa
CME ARTICLES: SEX DIFFERENCES AMONG OB-GYNS
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CME

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.

*Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology, American University; †Research Associate, §Director of Research, Research Department, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, DC; and ‡Professor, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, UNC School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC

This study was funded by grant UA6MC19010 through the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Research Program.

All authors and staff in a position to control the content of this CME activity and their spouses/life partners (if any) have disclosed that they have no financial relationships with, or financial interests in, any commercial organizations pertaining to this educational activity.

This research was performed under an appointment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Scholarship and Fellowship Program, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) through an interagency agreement between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and DHS. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) under DOE contract no. DE-AC05-06OR23100. All opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of DHS, DOE, or ORAU/ORISE.

Correspondence requests to: Victoria A. Farrow, MA, Department of Psychology, American University, Research Department, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 409 12th St SW, Washington, DC 20024. E-mail: vafarrow@gmail.com.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.