Women Trust Ob-gyns More Than Their General Practitioners

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Gynecologists are more trusted than general practitioners, a poll finds. (Photo: Getty Images)

Women trust, like, and rely on their ob-gyns more than their general practitioners, according to the results of a new poll — with 90 percent wishing their insurance carrier would allow them to opt for whichever one they want to name as their primary physician.

“The whole [ob-gyn] environment is geared towards women,” notes Barbara Levy, an ob-gyn and vice president of health policy for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who tells Yahoo Beauty she was not surprised by the findings. “And when you have to talk about hormones and bladders and itchy vulvas, these are all things that are more comfortable to do when you’re in an environment where that’s all that people deal with.”

The poll, commissioned by Planned Parenthood and conducted by nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem, reinforces the idea that there is a special relationship between women and their ob-gyn providers. It surveyed 2,450 women between the ages of 18 and 44 during the month following the election of President Trump. 

In addition to finding that the overwhelming majority wanted more choice regarding their primary care provider, the poll revealed that 61 percent of women are more likely to be open and honest with their ob-gyn than with their general practitioner. Also, while 70 percent of women were “very satisfied” with their ob-gyn, only 26 percent were “somewhat satisfied”; meanwhile, only 53 percent were “very satisfied” with their general practitioner, while 36 percent were “somewhat satisfied” with their GP.

The poll also looked at the kinds of health care that both men and women receive, and how ob-gyns figure into that. And while a similar number of both men and women named routine physicals as the type of care they receive each year — 47 percent of men and 46 percent of women — women also listed several kinds of care unique to them, such as well-woman visits (47 percent), Pap smears (41 percent), and birth control prescriptions (34 percent).

The findings echo those from a 2012 study, in which the Guttmacher Institute found that 60 percent of publicly funded family planning center clients saw another type of doctor within the year — but that they still chose to go to their family planning clinic for contraception. Further, 41 percent of family planning clinic clients said that they relied strictly on such clinics for all health care, citing respectful staff, confidential care, free or low-cost services, and a staff that was knowledgeable about women’s health as reasons. 

Again, says Levy, unsurprised by the findings, “Reproductive-age women tend to have reproductive-age problems.” She adds, “For the most part, other than upper respiratory infections, most of the things that reproductive-age women have issues with are related to their reproductive health,” such as “problems with periods, infections, being uncomfortable ‘down there,’ contraception, unplanned pregnancy, menopausal symptoms, and PMS.”

And, she notes, “It’s easier to talk to people who don’t get embarrassed and do this day in and day out.”

Levy points out that many in the policy side of health care tend to forget that women’s health care is provided by ob-gyns and not just any doctor.

“I think the assumption by many policy people is that anyone trained in primary care can do all those things,” she explains, but she says that, for example, something like IUD insertion “is technically challenging. It requires practice. And if you’re only doing one a month, that’s an issue.”

Which is why it’s so important for policy influencers and lawmakers to remember that women can’t necessarily get reproductive-type care at any ol’ physician’s office. 

“If 95 percent of your day is little kids with runny noses and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you’re not going to spend the time to learn how to put in an IUD, to know the nuances of one formulation of birth control over another, to understand the different doses of progestin and estrogen in different kinds of birth control pills,” Levy says. “Those nuances take experience.”