OB-GYN shortage could endanger Cincinnati mothers

Posted at 4:30 AM, Aug 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 07:45:30-04

CINCINNATI -- American women could be facing a childbirth crisis in coming decades as greater numbers of OB-GYNs age out of the field and fewer new practitioners take the their place, according to a study released by medical social network Doximity.

The study lists Cincinnati as one of the metropolitan areas with the oldest average age for OB-GYNs -- 51 years. Just around 20 percent of their colleagues are under 40. 

At 67 years old, Dr. Stewart Friedman is the oldest OB-GYN delivering babies for TriHealth. Although he's spent 37 years practicing, he said he understands why younger doctors in his field experience burnout at a rate comparable to ER physicians.

"Night call is obviously the biggest aspect, and that's really what ultimately causes physicians … to stop practicing," he said.

It doesn't help, he added, that southwest Ohio has a lower pay scale for physicians regardless of specialty than other areas.

"It doesn't attract maybe as many people wanting to settle in Cincinnati compared to other parts of the country," he said.

Stress on physicians will mean stress on women in future decades, according to the Doximity study. If current trends continue, the study predicts there will be almost 9,000 fewer OB-GYNs than American women need by 2020; by 2050, the country could have a 22,000-physician deficit.

Women in the United States already experience higher rates of maternal death than any other nation in the developed world. Without qualified, dedicated OB-GYNs to care for mothers and children in their most vulnerable hours, this crisis could only deepen.