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Many Surgical Trainees Consider Giving Up Their Careers When Pregnant

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Many trainee female surgeons who get pregnant or have kids consider leaving their careers before they even start, a study suggests.

Researchers examined data collected from surveys from 347 women surgeons who were around 31 years old on average, with a total of 452 pregnancies collectively, Reuters reports. On the whole, 86% of them worked an unmodified schedule right until they gave birth, and around two-thirds expressed concerns that their work hours might have a negative effect on their kids.

Dr. Erika Lu Rangel of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, lead author on the study, said, “The women surveyed reported concerns about unmodified work schedules during pregnancy, dissatisfaction with maternity leave options, stigma and fear of loss of reputation from being pregnant during training, inadequate lactation and childcare support and a desire for greater mentorship on work-life integration.”

Rangel added,

This emphasizes that pregnancy and childcare support may have a significant influence on the decision to pursue or maintain a career in surgery. To attract and retain the most talented candidates, surgical leaders must address the challenges facing new mothers in residency.

A total of 251 female surgeons – 78% — said they had six weeks or less for maternity leave, while around the same proportion mentioned that the duration of their leave was not enough.

Three hundred twenty-nine women, or 96%, said that breastfeeding was highly important. But 58% said that they stopped breastfeeding their infants sooner than they wanted to because of the challenges they faced, like lack of milking facilities or time to pump breast milk at work.

Only 18% of the women said they had childcare provided by their employers. A hundred and thirty-five women, or 39%, said they strongly considered ending their training as surgeons due to the challenges of pregnancy and of being a mother. In addition, 102 women, or 30%, said that they would discourage female medical students from becoming surgeons because of the challenges of balancing pregnancy with surgical training.

The study was published in JAMA Surgery.

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