If you’ve ever attended an OB/GYN appointment where the gynecologist was a male, you may have noticed that there’s always a woman in the room during an examination or procedure. This is for a number of reasons, the largest of which pertains to the clinician trying to avoid accusations of sexual assault while also making a female patient feel more comfortable.
However, gynecology isn’t the only medical practice where women tend to feel more comfortable with a woman in the room. Many women have found themselves avoiding appointments with male doctors or requesting female doctors or nurse practitioners in their stead. But why do so many women prefer to be treated by female doctors?
The medical industry is largely dominated by males, and in similar industries where men are the leading figures, women tend to feel unheard. So when talking to a medical professional about a health concern, not feeling listened to is the last thing a patient wants. A doctor who feels like they know better than the patient may not listen to all their concerns and symptoms and may even refuse to treat them.
Additionally, many people chalk up a lot of pain that women experience, physical and mental, to hormones and the menstrual cycle. However, another female doctor can better understand that a woman can differentiate fairly well between their typical cycle woes versus a differing medical issue.
Many symptoms of the same illness, such as a heart attack, can look very different for men than women. If a doctor isn’t aware of how a patient’s sex can affect different illnesses, a patient can become grossly misdiagnosed. Additionally, and as previously stated, doctors often write off the pain as a normal part of the female experience. Doctors can chalk up cancers, immune disorders, and mental illnesses to menstrual cycle issues, leaving other illnesses to worsen until it’s too late.
Fear concerning doctor sexual abuse is one of the most common reasons why women prefer to be treated by female doctors. This can be because a patient has experienced previous sexual abuse, has experienced sexual abuse by a medical professional, or has gone through a traumatic experience in one way or another. A woman might feel safer with a professional of the same gender who is more sensitive and aware of women’s experiences. Ultimately, it’s up to medical professionals to make their practice and their spaces a safer place for women of all backgrounds.