Women Doctors Are Less Likely to Perform C-Sections

Female obstetricians are less likely than their male colleagues to perform cesarean sections, a review of studies has found.

Researchers pooled data from 15 studies from around the world covering more than 1.2 million births supervised by female and male doctors, plus 11 studies that used hypothetical scenarios to assess 4,911 obstetricians for their preferences. The review is in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Overall, female obstetricians were 25 percent less likely to do a C-section than male doctors. In studies using criteria like the position of the fetus or the onset of labor, women doctors had lower odds of doing a C-section given the same clinical circumstances. Babies of similar gestational age, for example, were more likely to be delivered by C-section if a male obstetrician was in charge.

Presented with the same hypothetical birth scenario, women were more than 40 percent less likely than men to choose C-section, and women were less likely than men to agree to a maternal request for a C-section without medical necessity.

Why these differences exist is unclear. The lead author, Dr. Ilir Hoxha, an adjunct assistant professor at Dartmouth, suggested that women may be more sensitive to the mother in a difficult moment, that men may in general be more inclined to use procedures, and that men, especially in the United States, might be more fearful of litigation.

But, he said, “We cannot confirm explanations. These are things that could be matter for further investigation.”

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