We never could understand. We'd brainstorm through reasons and would always come back to the same question, never settled, never quite understanding. But then a friend joined a playgroup I'm in and her hubby at the time happened to be in a residency program to become an OB/GYN. And I thought I will one day ask her the question. So I did it, last week! And I asked her if she would mind to answer that question that's been running amuck in my (and others) heads. She graciously obliged!
And so here is a guest post from my newly relocated, wife of an OB/GYN and momma to a little 2.5 year babe, friend!
Why Do Men Become OB/GYNs?
When the question of why a man would become an OB/GYN came up recently, I was asked me to write a post about it. I’m qualified to try to answer it because I’m not only curious about it myself, but I’m also married to one—a man who happens to be an OB/GYN, that is. After I was sent an e-mail posing the question, I pondered it a bit, and then, I turned to my husband to get his reaction. Immediately, he felt it was a sexist question to ask. It is probably as relevant today to wonder about such a thing as it would be to ask why women would become race car drivers. I leave it to someone else, though, to go up to Danica Patrick and get her thoughts on that matter. As for the subject of male OB/GYNs, I can see his point, but I can also see it from the perspective of the women who wonder about it. I grew up with a male doctor as my primary care physician. When I was a teenager and still growing into my body, I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable during my first pap exam while this man, who I trusted completely, rooted around in my nether regions. Really, though, what woman isn’t uncomfortable with a metal speculum pushed up inside her while she silently wonders what the doctor behind the sheet is looking at “down there”? But, I digress.
To know why a man would become an OB/GYN, I should probably start with my husband and his career. Every doctor has a reason for pursuing his/her chosen field, and those reasons vary widely. I can only speak on what I know of my husband, but I think many other OB/GYNs, whether male or female, can relate to at least one of his experiences. I have known him for over twelve years, and we have been married for seven of those twelve. We met in undergrad, and I remember that he thought about becoming a family doctor or a general practitioner. However, when he started rotating through the various departments in medical school, he discovered that he enjoyed both obstetrics and surgery. He got excited at the wonder and joy of birth, but he also liked the complexity and challenges of every surgery during which he assisted. Then, he found out that a residency in obstetrics and gynecology would only take four more years of training, and the field itself had the added bonus of being part general practice and part surgery. He applied for six different residency programs in three states and was matched with his second choice. When he finished his residency, he not only had a thorough knowledge of the field, but he also came out of it with a large group of friends and colleagues on whom he could rely later, most of whom are female, I might add.
Besides being the best of both worlds for my husband, obstetrics and gynecology has many other positive aspects. For one, he spends more of his time dealing with patients at the beginning of their lives than with those who are nearing the end. What is more joyous than watching a beautiful baby come into this world? That’s probably why such television programs as “A Baby Story” on TLC are so popular. Also, he enjoys being given a challenge or a good problem to solve. He doesn’t get bored with treating the same illnesses day after day. Instead, every surgery, every delivery, and every infection keeps him on his toes depending on its complications and complexities, and no two days at work are the same for him. He is also very active at work and spends little time sitting around waiting for something to happen, except on those days when a particular patient’s labor or delivery is taking more time than expected. Probably the best and most important part of his job is he gets to save lives when he performs surgeries, monitors fetal development, prescribes medications, or decides the best course of action for a particular medical situation.
There is a question within the question I’m trying to answer, though. Most women probably want to know if all the exposure to vaginas and breasts is distracting or a turn on, especially if the OB/GYN is straight and/or married. Hopefully, if the OB/GYN is a professional—and in my experience, most of them are—then, it is all just part of the job. I think most physicians, no matter what their field, believe in the idea that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, whether they are hearts, livers, or vaginas. Also, one of their main job requirements is to diagnose medical problems. Honestly, does it sound sexy to have to look at and touch body parts covered in sores, warts, abscesses, or something else equally or more disgusting every single day? There is always an exception to every rule, but any doctor going into a field because he/she has some sort of perverted fetish related to it probably wouldn’t last very long due to malpractice and/or the possible impending sexual harassment lawsuits. My husband spent twelve years in undergrad, medical school, and residency. During that time, he learned to become a professional and objective clinician. In order to be a successful doctor, he must look at everything from a purely clinical and scientific viewpoint. Physicians learn to become desensitized to such things from the very beginning, when they spend their time in anatomy classes recognizing body organs and tissue in dissected human corpses. I don’t think there is anything sexy about that. For those women who wonder about being married to an OB/GYN: I can say that it is probably like being married to an engineer or an artist or a computer technician or a man employed in any other profession. My husband’s professional and personal lives are completely separate, the exception being when I was pregnant. Even then, he made certain my own OB/GYN took care of me, while he watched from the side lines as the expectant father. He did do the very first ultrasound in which we saw our baby’s heartbeat at only five weeks of development. It was one of the most poignant and wonderful experiences of my life and one of the true advantages of being married to him.
When it’s really important, though, does a doctor’s gender really matter, as long as he/she is competent and proactive when it comes to a patient’s healthcare? Will it really make a difference when a woman is in her 36th hour of painful labor and really just wants that baby out? Or, when the baby’s heartbeat suddenly drops and a C-section is the only recourse? Should it really matter? Besides, the question is almost becoming a moot point because there are now many more females going into the field than there are males. We witnessed this firsthand, both during my husband’s residency and also within his current practice, where the ratio of female physicians to male physicians is exactly equal, or 4 to 3, if you count the nurse practitioner. So, the next time you see your doctor, you might think about asking him/her why he/she decided to go into obstetrics and gynecology. The answer just might surprise you.
Amanda C. is a thirty-something mother of a 2 ½ year old son and married to wonderful man, who just happens to be an OB/GYN. She occasionally writes about life as a stay-at-home-mom, a doctor’s wife, and an utter geek on her blog http://www.marriedtothemd.blogspot.com/.