Having a Baby During Medical School
“I am totally dedicated to getting into your medical school and believe I would make an excellent doctor. However, I’d like to have a baby. . .”
“Maybe sometime during those four years,” you continue, “I’ll take some time-off, breastfeed for as long as possible, and be an involved parent. When would be the best time to do that?”
Can you imagine actually asking this in any interview, let alone one for medical school? But for many MomMD members, this question at the top of their “cannot-be-discussed” list.
There seems to be no perfect time to have a baby during medical school, yet there are many women having planned or surprise babies during medical school, and it is something that can be done. Hear what MomMD members have experienced in the following examples. All names have been changed to protect identity. This article was based on discussions in one of the medical school forums.
“It is definitely possible to have a child during medical school. I had a baby during my fourth year, and took the year after my graduation off before starting residency. However, I know several people who have taken breaks mostly at the end of second year. This is kind of a natural break point, because at most medical schools the first two years are spent in the classroom, and the second two years are spent doing clinical rotations. There are also some cushy research jobs that can allow you a great deal of flexibility if you look around,” says one MomMD member.
But why on earth would anyone choose to have a baby during challenging medical school years? There are many reasons, including for some older non-traditional students, a “booming biological clock,” says 33-year-old first-year student, Emma.
“I had my (now four-week-old) son during the middle of my third year of medical school. I am now 33 and could not wait to finish med school or residency to reproduce.”
Joan’s pregnancy was a surprise: “I am 30, starting med school in August, and found out this week I’m pregnant. (Due in the middle of December.) I really don’t want to put off school any longer. Assuming an uncomplicated pregnancy, I am thinking that I will deliver and have a few weeks for Christmas break before I start school again in January. ”
But is a student like Joan being realistic, how can she manage?
“From my experience,” says one member, “I think doing first-year medicine is doable with a newborn. However, my daughter was born before we started, and I was able to take a lot of time away from classes. I think you need to prepare yourself that it will be difficult, especially because for the first few weeks all I wanted to do was lie around and look at the baby.”
And if one baby weren’t challenging enough, there’s always the possibility of twins.
“I am a second-year med student and just had twins in January. I was put on bed rest for 10 weeks (preterm labor), and so didn’t get to finish the Fall quarter as I had planned. I am taking time off from school now and will return next September (joining this year’s first-year students),” shares Kay. “I can’t imagine doing school right now, but then I have twins and have to get up twice as much as a singleton mom. My brain is fried from sleep deprivation. My husband says this is good practice for when I am an intern. A second-year classmate of mine had a baby in December, and her husband quit work for a year to stay home with the baby. It is definitely doable (being a med student and a mom), but it is so much harder than just being a student. I am particularly worried about studying for the boards and finishing second year when the twins are one year old. It’s a lot to do. I have heard many people say that early in fourth year is the best time to have a baby. But then your baby is pretty young when you start internship. It’s probably tough no matter how you do it.”
More on motherhood and medicine
Choosing a Family-Friendly Medical School
Having, Raising Kids During Medical School, Part 1
Having, Raising Kids During Medical School, Part 2
Choosing a Family-Friendly Residency
Having a Baby During Residency
Raising Children During Medical Residency