Fewer OBGYNs When We Need Them Most

Fewer OBGYNs When We Need Them MostAccording to the women’s website Mother Jones, there is a shortage of OBGYNs in the U.S. and the problem is getting worse. As fewer medical students select standard obstetrics and gynecology as their field, more and more OBGYNs retire and more and more women have babies, the gap between medical needs and available doctors will continue to grow.

This disturbing news is concerning for several reasons: First, the American College of Nurse-Midwives claims that almost half of U.S. counties lack OBGYNs. And when they say lack, they mean there is not one OBGYN to advise and care for women’s gynecological needs or support pregnant women. That’s astounding!

Additionally, the population is expected to grow significantly in the next 14 years. Estimates from Pew Charitable Trusts say that there will be an 18% growth in that timeframe. This means that there will be a lot of babies in our future, and not enough doctors to properly care for their mothers during pregnancy.

As it stands now, the U.S. has a pretty high maternal death rate from childbirth compared to other developed countries.  Ours is 18.5 deaths among moms in 100,000 live births. The rates are well under 10 per 100,000 births in Japan, the U.K. and Canada.

The shortage of OBGYNs may be due to several factors. First, the field is now dominated by female doctors. Statistically, female OBGYNs retire 10 years earlier than men and prefer to work reduced schedules, likely to care for their own families.

Furthermore, many medical students are choosing other areas of medicine that are either more lucrative, more interesting or less time-consuming. Even within obstetrics and gynecology, there are specialties such as fertility and oncology that are growing in popularity. Plus, being an OBGYN is less flexible and more interruptive of a doctor’s life than other fields because women have babies any time, day or night, on weekends and holidays. OBGYNs have to be prepared to cover all of these situations.

Just how short is this shortage? According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The U.S. will have 6,000 to 8,800 fewer OBGYNs than necessary within the next 4 years.  Then by 2050, there will be a shortage of approximately 22,000 OBGYNs.

Some states are looking into alternative healthcare options for women such as nurse midwives. Most nurse midwives are required to work in practices alongside with medical doctors, however due to the shortage of OBGYNs, this requirement may change.


Source: Mother Jones