Medical Student

Having a Baby During Residency

Having a Baby During Residency

Both residency and parenthood are physically and psychologically taxing experiences, and tackling both at the same time is a daunting proposition. However, having a baby during residency is fairly common these days. Here are a few tips from resident-moms who have been through the process:

1) Get familiar with your program’s parental leave policy. The best case scenario is that your program has a well-defined parental leave policy specifying the amount of leave you can take, whether leave is paid or unpaid, and how extended or delayed training will be handled. If your program does not have a written parental leave policy, meet with your program director to come up with a solution. The average time for parental leave in U.S. residency programs is 6 weeks, but this will vary significantly between programs.

2) Communicate clearly with your program director, colleagues, and family. Notify your program director, immediate superiors, and colleagues about your pregnancy as early as you can. Residency programs need to ensure that their patients are covered during your absence, and your fellow residents will likely be the ones picking up extra work. Additionally, make sure to communicate your goals with your partner. Who will be the primary caregiver once you return to work? Will you have to hire extra help, or call on family and friends in the area? How will other home responsibilities be handled?

3) Stay connected to your program during leave. If possible, attend occasional meetings and academic teaching sessions during leave. This low-stress activity will allow you to stay connected to medicine and your peer group, and keep your clinical mind active.

4) Prepare for your transition back to work. While visibly pregnant residents generally garner support from superiors and colleagues, new mothers don’t often get the same treatment upon their return to the work world [1]. Be prepared to face the demands of a potentially unsympathetic residency program while giving sufficient attention to your family. If you plan to breastfeed, figure out the logistics of when and where that can be done while you’re at work. Discuss your child care arrangements with your partner and family ahead of time. Returning to the workplace can be one of the most challenging parts of being a mother and a resident, and anticipating your challenges will lead to a smoother transition.

5) Last but not least, make time for yourself! Residency and parenthood are extraordinarily time consuming and exhausting, and it’s easy to neglect yourself and your relationship with your partner, family, and friends when you have patients and a newborn constantly vying for your attention. During your pregnancy, keep yourself in good health and be aware of your own limitations. If you feel that your work is taking its toll on your own health and the health of your baby, talk to your supervisor and program director about your options. Also be sure to spend time with your loved ones; they will be the ones who keep you sane in those moments when everything seems as though it might slip out of balance.

Helpful links:

[1] Motherhood during residency training (2005)

Pregnancy during Residency: A Literature Review (2003)

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
Raising Children During Medical Residency