South Florida women who have waited months for an available OB-GYN appointment can blame a growing gynecologist shortage across America.
Miami is the third-highest metro area that is at risk for OB-GYN physician shortages, according to a new study released Wednesday by the research network, Doximity. Salt Lake City is second and Las Vegas is no. 1.
There are several factors that influence that ranking, said Christopher Whaley, a health economist at the University of California, Berkley. He worked with reserachers at Doximity to complete the ‘2019 OB-GYN Workforce Study.’
“Being an OB-GYN is a fairly demanding job," Whaley said.
That's especially true for those in Miami. To better understand the demanding workload of OB-GYNs nationwide, researchers compared the number of live births performed on average by each doctor in various cities. In Miami, physicians have a high workload: 47 OB-GYNs to every 105 births. Boston has 57 OB-GYNs for every 69 births.
"And so they tend to retire a little bit earlier than other physicians,” he said.
According to Doximity, OB-GYNs begin to retire at 59. However, the average age of an OB-GYN is 51, just eight years younger than retirement age.
37 percent of the OB-GYNs in metro Miami are over the age of 55. This also contributes to Miami’s growing shortage. Whaley also cited that out of America’s 50 largest cities, Miami was ranked no. 4 for the lowest percentage of OB-GYNs younger than 40.
“So what having a disproportionately older population of OB-GYN doctors potentially means for Miami is that there are more OB-GYNs retiring in Miami and fewer coming in.”
These factors, Whaley said, are contributing to the long waits to book appointments.
“For many women it’s already hard to find an OB-GYN, especially an OB-GYN that you’re most comfortable with,” Whaley said.
Some pregnant women are turning away from OB-GYNs and looking to alternative healthcare, like midwife centers. A holistic approach like this one might be more accessable, but it's not for everyone.
“We only handle low-risk moms, but we’re always going to have those moms that are going to need an OB-GYN,” said Sandra Lobaina, who owns 'My Mom Glow' and is a licensed midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Women with high-risk pregnancies, such as those who have hypertension, need OB-GYNs,
“So keeping that balance in our society, and making sure we have access to those services is going to be so important to our future,” she said.
‘My Mom Glow’ is also limited in the number of clients they can take in. That's because moms who come to the midwife center want a more personal, intimate experience — a luxury OB-GYNs in a hospital don’t typically have.
“From my own personal experience, being in the field of attending to mothers and babies and birth in general, just the birthing world, you have a very rigorous schedule,” she said.
“It’s very difficult to plan vacations, it’s very difficult to have time off. You’re always on call. You’re basically always needed.”