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The Woolly Mammoths of Medicine

I am one of a dying breed. Doomed to extinction. The flickering light of my kind will soon be snuffed out. Like the Dodo and the Woolly Mammoth before us we will stumble and fall, prey to the gathering forces that stalk us, waiting to pounce. We will not fall because we are inferior. We will fall because we don’t possess ovaries. That’s right – male obstetricians will soon be a thing of the past.

There will come a time in the not too distant future where male obstetricians will be relegated to the distant fringes of freaksville. In a profession which until very recently was dominated numerically by men, there will be soon be a complete turning of the tables where the possession of a Y chromosome will make us stand out like the proverbial.

I started in medicine for one of the most boring reasons – I wanted to help people. So unbelievably clichéd, I know. I didn’t have a specific category of “people” in mind and in some ways I fell into obstetrics. It chose me rather than the other way around. When I started my training just over 15 years ago it was very male-dominated but already a change was coming with female trainees significantly outnumbering males. With this change in gender balance there have been the inevitable comparisons as to who gives the better care in this most intimate and emotional areas of medicine.

I’ve known male O&G’s who were misogynistic morons.

I’ve known female O&G’s who were rough with patients with apparently little care to their comfort – either physical or mental. I knew one who when asked by a patient if she was doing a good job during childbirth replied “You couldn’t have pushed out a fart with that effort!” When I said to her later that I couldn’t believe that she’d said that she commented “You’d be surprised what you can get away with when you’re female.”

I’ve known lazy O&Gs – male and female. I’ve known disrespectful O&G’s – male and female. I’ve known poorly skilled and downright dangerous O&Gs – male and female. I’ve known O&G’s whose inflated opinions of their own self-worth gave them a superior air that threatened to suck the very marrow from the bones of colleagues and patients within 100 metres of them –they were MALE AND FEMALE.

Are you sensing a pattern? I believe that the anatomical bits secreted between an O&G’s legs play no part in whether they are empathic, skilled, sensible, knowledgeable or just plain good at their job. When it comes down to the nitty gritty of looking after a woman in labour the possession of a uterus gives you no assistance in determining the best course of action when a baby is “stuck”. When inserting a speculum to take a PAP smear one does not need to have a vagina of your own in order to make the PAP smear taking process less uncomfortable. I have seen male and female registrars alike trying to insert speculums at the most bizarre angles, with little warning and in the direction of the bladder rather than the cervix.

There’s no doubt that there are many men and women who think that male obstetricians are somehow just a little bit weird, creepy or downright perverted. I’ve written in an earlier blog as to why I love my job. It’s pretty simple really – it’s a great job with great patients and (for the most part) great outcomes. It’s just the on-call that sucks. However, a very quick search on Google will have you believing that us male obstetricians got into this line of work so that on a daily basis we can get paid to look at “hoo-has” and “va-jay-jays”, and then go drinking with our mates to tell “coochie stories”.

I mean – seriously…….

  1. Vulva - it’s called your vulva. Not your hoo-ha, va-jay-jay OR coochie. Please do NOT teach those terms to your children.

  2. Litigation - this is what happens when coochie stories are told

  3. Professionalism - this is what I have been trained to have

  4. Uninteresting - this is what your vulva is within a few minutes of completing your examination and writing in your notes. If I remember your vulva for any length of time beyond that – this is usually a bad thing. You want your vulva (and for that matter all of your gynaecological organs) to be BORING.

I understand that even after writing all of the above there are still many women who for many different reasons want to choose a female O&G but please, I implore you. Choose your O&G based on whether they are good at what they do rather than whether they have ovaries. Let your decision be based on advice from your GP, family and friends rather than the O&G’s XX factor. And above all let it be YOUR decision as to who you want to go and see.

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