Motherhood and Medicine: Having a Baby in Residency Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Peak years of fertility and childbearing happen right smack dab in the middle of medical training. Perfect storm.

I personally wrestled with the question of  “should I get pregnant now or risk waiting?” I got many, “Well, there’s never a good time.” And even being part of a mostly supportive family medicine residency, pregnancy and post-partum times were by no means a walk in the park.

Having had my first child 4 months into my intern year, yes, I knew things were going to be tough. Real tough. I didn’t have the protection of FMLA because I hadn’t worked a full year at that employer, my residency didn’t really have a policy for first years having baby and I was facing repeating my entire intern year again if “I took too long to come back.” I remember stewing over, “if I get an induction by ___, then I could get back in time. But if I got past ___, I’m screwed.” Talk about stress!

I got lucky (or perhaps you could say I fit the trend of pregnancy complications in residents) and delivered early.

But trying to time out a delivery, postpartum period, my clinical rotation schedule and the overall residency call schedule was close to an act of God and it shouldn’t be. Women have babies, women also have residency jobs. I applaud the AOA House of Delegates for passing a resolution calling for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to adopt a standardized parental leave policy for medical residents. About damn time! Read more about that HERE

When we stop pretending that life stops during residency and start expanding possibilities for all life choices, I believe this will drastically improve this aspect of resident and early practice physician well being. 

PS: Hey, to those colleagues I worked with while being huge pregnant and who covered while I was out, I truly appreciate you! (Another reason to get program requirements changed, so all can flourish)  

PSS: Next we need to talk about the health of mothers in residency (ie being a breastfeeding advocate but unable to feed her own child, having poor pregnancy and delivery outcomes from age related peers and increased levels of poor mental health) but I’ll save that for another time.

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