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8 Things to Know About the Ob/Gyn Shortage

Medically Reviewed By Stacy A. Henigsman, DO

The U.S. physician workforce is aging and the population is growing. This has led to a looming shortage of physicians across primary care and specialties, including obstetrics and gynecology. Here’s what you should know.

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The Association of American Medical Colleges Trusted Source Association of American Medical Colleges Highly respected medical organization Go to source  (AAMC) released a recent report that projects a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists expects a deficiency of 22,000 obstetrician/gynecologists (Ob/Gyns) by 2050.

Despite being one of the top 10 most recruited physicians, OB-GYNs are among the lowest paid of the surgical specialties. Medscape reports that the average Ob/Gyn compensation in 2023 was $337,000. This is $75,000 less than a general surgeon, but significantly more than primary care physicians in internal medicine and family medicine.

Here are some of the key things to know about the Ob/Gyn shortage.

1. Patient load is growing for Ob/Gyns.

Women ages 18-44 years comprise nearly 18% of the U.S. population. The number of women of reproductive age has increased by about 35% in the decades between 1980 and 2017. This has translated into larger patient loads for Ob/Gyns to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare to this group.

2. The Ob/Gyn workforce is aging.

The average age of the Ob/Gyn workforce is 51 years. Unlike some other areas of medical practice, Ob/Gyns tend to retire early, beginning around age 59. Some of this is due to burnout, but it is also a reflection of the high likelihood of being sued in this specialty. Regardless, Ob/Gyn retirements are likely to accelerate in the coming decade.

3. Supply is not keeping up with demand.

Between 2003 and 2022, first-year Ob/Gyn residency programs increased from 245 to 288 (17.5%). The number of first-year positions has also increased, from 1,151 to 1,521 (32.2%). Despite this, the supply of new Ob/Gyns is not meeting the demand. And there remain more applicants than slots available for first-year positions, increasing the competitiveness of the specialty.

4. Ob/Gyn residents are pursuing subspecialties.

Adding to the shortage is the fact that an increasing number of Ob/Gyn residents are pursuing subspecialties with higher compensation. This includes gynecologic oncology, maternal fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. 

5. Rural areas are hit the hardest.

While the Ob/Gyn shortage is not limited to rural areas, women in these settings often have the biggest challenges. More than half of them must travel more than 30 minutes for potentially life-saving care. And half of all U.S. counties do not have a practicing Ob/Gyn.

6. There has been an influx of female Ob/Gyns. 

Nearly 60% of the Ob/Gyn workforce is female. This has met a need, as many patients express a preference for a female Ob/Gyn. However, it has also introduced some challenges. Female physicians tend to work fewer hours, see fewer patients, and have shorter medical careers than their male counterparts. Female physicians are also more likely to experience burnout and Ob/Gyns already have one of the highest rates of burnout.

7. Work-life balance is improving.

Both male and female physicians entering obstetrics and gynecology today are looking for work-life balance. Part of achieving this has been a reduced call schedule. This trend has led to the use of hospital laborists whose job it is to manage deliveries.

8. Compensation is increasing.

Ob/Gyns remain one of the most in-demand physician specialties and competition has driven an increase in salaries. The average Ob/Gyn salary increased by 8% in 2022 and starting salaries rose by more than 15% between 2014 and 2019. In 2023, an Ob/Gyn could also expect an average incentive bonus of $57,000. As competition for the limited Ob/Gyn resource remains high, Ob/Gyns will continue to need tools, such as telehealth and advanced practitioners, to meet patient care demands.

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  1. AAMC report reinforces mounting physician shortage. (2021). https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/press-releases/aamc-report-reinforces-mounting-physician-shortage
  2. Medscape ob/gyn compensation. (2022). https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-compensation-obgyn-6015146#1
  3. Ob/gyn physicians: career trends in 2023. (2023). https://www.merritthawkins.com/news-and-insights/blog/career-insights/2023-obgyn-physician-career-trends/
  4. Ob/gyn workforce study. (2019). https://press.doximity.com/reports/ob-gyn-workforce-study-2019.pdf
  5. Obstetrics/gynecology: Supply, demand, compensation, and recruiting trends. (2020). https://www.merritthawkins.com/uploadedFiles/MerrittHawkins/Content/News_and_Insights/Articles/Obstetrics%20Gynecology%20Supply%20Demand%20Compensation%20Recruiting%20Trends.pdf
  6. Physician compensation report. (2022). https://physiciansthrive.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Physician-Compensation-Report-2022.pdf
  7. Population – women ages 18-44 in the United States. https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/measures/pct_female_18-44.
  8. Rayburn, W.F., et al. (2022). Match rates for first-year residency positions in obstetrics and gynecology since medical school expansions. https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(22)00765-7/fulltext

Medical Reviewer: Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
Last Review Date: 2023 Apr 11
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.