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Docs Planning Pregnancy

If you are a female doc, you’re probably used to being treated like a ticking time bomb. 

I know, I know… You’re probably efficient, dedicated, smart, and educated.

But, let’s face it.  You will probably want to get pregnant and become a free loading burden on your practice someday.

You’re probably plotting your reproduction right now…wondering, “When is the best time for me to get pregnant?”

Well, lucky for you, I asked thousands of doctor moms just what they did.

So here’s the skinny, or the whaley… you know what I mean.

Medical School

Not a good time.  

You’re stressed and overwhelmed.  There is a firehose of facts flowing your way.  

There is no income so you’re accumulating debt. You have no control over your schedule.  

You’ll have to go to the anatomy lab and breathe in all those lovely chemicals. 

Then, there’s the surgery rotation where you’ll have to be on your feet for at least 24 hours at a time, 30 if you’re extra lucky.  Who’s going to write those pre-notes at 4am if you’re barfing into the toilet? Who’s going to hold back that retractor for 5 hours? We can’t have you passing out on the surgical field. 

After pregnancy, you’ll have to pump and raise that the little one on no income.  

Nope not a good time.

Residency or Fellowship

Nope.  You’ll be an intern and you definitely won’t know what you’re doing at all.  

You’ll need all your time to answer pages about low potassium and STAT Ativan.  Don’t forget the code blue’s.   

Later on in residency, you’ll finally be worth something to your service. You can’t take time off then!  Everyone will have to cover you.  

At least, you’ll have work hour restrictions. 

And maybe you’ll have an understanding attending that will let sit instead of stand in the corner while you’re 9 months pregnant.  She may even let you take time to pump. 

Another positive, you’ll probably get paid the meager amount you were getting paid before. 

But then, you won’t really have time to spend with the baby when you’re back because it’s time to get to work.  

So, no, not really a great time.


Finally, you’ve got some meaningful income coming in!

Good timing because Sallie Mae has been waiting to collect what’s due. You better get your butt to work because how else are you going to pay the two to three THOUSAND dollars you owe every month to the undertaker?

Finally, they have you without any blasted work hour restrictions! Oh you want to take time for maternity leave? You better be prepared to do it for no pay.

When you come back, you’ll need to pay your practice back for all the time and the premium payments you’ve missed.

What a burden you were to your partners while you were gone. You’re back and now it’s time to pay up.

What? You need to feed your baby? Can you pump while running a code? Can you let down while answering urgent pages?

You better learn to, because it’s all up to you now. No one is looking over your shoulder.

You’ll have to make up the missed revenue to your practice somehow.

So how about you satisfy your need to have a family later? Like much later?

Oh wait, you won’t be able to down the line? Man. Well, that sucks for you.

So, yeah.  You get the gist.  There is never a good time.

Results of my poll of Hundreds of Doctor Moms

Poll on Physician Moms Group, N= 620

Late residency and early attending-hood are likely the best worst times. 

You’ll probably have the most protections in training.  If you’re in academics, you may have it easier as an attending.

All kidding aside, there is really no good time, so just do it when you want.  No matter when you have a baby, you’re going to have to work while you’re nauseous, lightheaded, and tired. There will be patients touching your whale belly while you round. You’re going to have to be on your feet all the time. You’re going to have to work around your belly when you intubate.  When you go out on maternity leave, patients and coworkers will try to make you feel guilty for abandoning them.  Medicine is a jealous mistress.

Once you have the baby, if you want to breastfeed, you’ll have to pump every 3 hours for a while.  Good people will support you and the others will resent you for having the gall to take time to feed your baby.  These things will change slowly. 

But, until then, just do your thing. 

Your coworkers won’t take care of you when you are old and crippled.  Your babies will.

To be fair, maternity leave and pumping breaks do make it harder on our coworkers.  The medical productivity system is based on the male life cycle. 

Now that greater than 50% of doctors are female, we are going to have to figure out a way to have coverage available for maternity leave and build in the productivity hit of nursing mothers into the business model.  

There is a doctor shortage and we need well trained, competent doctor mothers to stay in the workforce. Physician wellness and physician retention are hot topics that will continue to change the way things are run.   Until then, we will need to do the best we can.

P.S.  If my coworkers are reading this… no I’m not pregnant.  No, I’m not planning on getting pregnant. I have an IUD


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