A New Study Finds a Gender Bias in Gynecological Research

A new analysis by Netta Avnoon, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, found that most gynecological research focuses on childbirth and reproduction rather than women’s health and well-being. Mapping scientific journals in the category of gynecology and obstetrics, the study found that the majority deal with fertility, pregnancy, fetuses, and childbirth.

The study found that since the 16th century the specialty of gynecology has been wholly dominated by males, and consequently they were the ones to determine which topics are ‘interesting’ and worth studying; they were the ones who set practices and protocols and introduced treatments, technologies, and techniques, all too often subjecting patients to medical practices that are not necessarily benevolent.

Dr. Avnoon searched a database that provides general and statistical information about scientific journals worldwide. She found that of the 83 journals in the gynecology category, 49 percent are dedicated solely to reproductive functions, pregnancy, fetuses, and childbirth. Only 24 percent focus on both gynecology and obstetrics and only 12 percent deal with health issues in the female sexual organs that are unrelated to reproductive functions. Only 4 percent (3 journals) address the health of women before and after childbearing age, including menopause.

“Men have dominated gynecology for almost a thousand years, and their gender identity impacts everything that happens in this specialty, including research design and medical practices,” said Dr. Avnoon.

Dr. Avnoon holds a  bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in culture research from the University of Tel Aviv. She earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Haifa.

The full study, “Time for Women-Centred Gynaecology,” was published in the journal Nature Reviews Urology. It may be accessed here.

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