SLR - December 2014 - Emily Pepyne

Does a Surgical Career Affect a Woman’s Childbearing and Fertility? A Report on Pregnancy and Fertility Trends Among Female Surgeons

Reference: Phillips EA, Nimeh T, Braga J, Lerner LB. Does a Surgical Career Affect A  Woman’s Childbearing and Fertility? A Report on Pregnancy and Fertility Trends Among Female Surgeons. J Am Coll Surg. 2014 Aug 1.

Scientific Literature Review

Reviewed By: Emily Pepyne, DPM
Residency Program: Cambridge Health Alliance

Podiatric Relevance: Pregnancy and starting a family is an important and life changing event for many young women. Most female podiatric surgeons are at peak childbearing age during their residency training. Timing of pregnancy and balancing priorities between family and work obligations is a difficult challenge for many residents and career-orientated individuals. Most female residents in surgical specialties have cited legitimate reasons for delaying child birth such as potential conflicts with colleagues, inability to work a physically demanding job for long hours while pregnant, guilt, discrimination and inability to get ideal training due to taking time off for maternity leave. This article looked at pregnancy and infertility statistics across many surgical specialties, including podiatry.
Methods: An anonymous, 199-item survey was distributed to female surgeons from many different specialties. The study was completely anonymous and voluntary. The data collected was then statistically analyzed.

Results: Of women surgeons, 32 percent reported fertility difficulty, 76 percent of these women used ART to attempt pregnancy. In comparison, only 10.9% of women in the general US population report infertility and 11 percent seek infertility services. Surgeons had 1.4 biological children, which is less than the national average of 3.2. Women surgeons’ age at first pregnancy was 33 years, compared to the national average of 23. Podiatric surgeons did not have an increased reported rate of infertility.

Conclusions: There is a clear discrepancy in the reproductive patterns of female surgeons compared to the general US population. Specifically, women surgeons have higher age of first birth, higher rates of infertility, more birth complications and less total number of children than the average US female. Many physicians have legitimate reasons for delaying childbirth, such as advancing their careers and progressing their specialized training, but this does not come without consequences. Delaying childbirth can have both physical and emotional consequences for both the mother and child. 

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