Study Finds the US Is Facing a Serious OB-GYN Shortage

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

As if women’s reproductive health services weren’t under threat enough in this country, a social network for physicians called Doximity reported this week that the current Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN) workforce is nearing the age of retirement, and its numbers are expected to decline sharply in the coming years.

According to Doximity, the average age of OB-GYNs in the US is 51, and many of them will begin retiring at 59 (the analysis is based on OB-GYNs practicing in the country’s 50 largest cities). The average age varies, of course, depending on what part of the country you’re looking at, with an average of 53 in Pittsburgh and 49 in Houston, New York Magazine reports.


There is also the matter of doctors’ unbearably full work loads to consider. Doximity’s study found that, while the average OB-GYN assists 105 childbirths per year, that number can double, or more, when you look at certain overwhelmed cities such as Riverside, California an St. Louis, Missouri. The cities in the most dire situations—those that have too few doctors as it is, lots of doctors about to retire, and not many young doctors ready to replace them—are Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Riverside, an Miami.

The Doximity study doesn’t cover reasons young med students choose whether or not to specialize as OB-GYNs (this Daily Beast article published Thursday suggests it might have something to do with an inhospitable legal environment based on some bad legislation in Wisconsin, but the argument seems thin). I should also add that Doximity is by no means the first analysis to suggest a looming OB-GYN shortage—many others have pointed out that OB-GYNs are overburdened and underpaid for their work. 

contributing writer, nights

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I was on my way to become big an Ob/gyn, when every single Ob/gyn resident told me during my fourth year of medical school to pick something else. They were miserable and those that were married (like me) were divorced by the end of their residency. There are cultural problems within the specialty. I picked radiology and am very glad I did.