Friday, May 25, 2012

Pregnancy among women surgical residents

A paper reporting the results of a survey of women surgeons on the topic of pregnancy appears in Archives of Surgery online ahead of print.

Responses were received from 1937 female surgeons, which was 49.6% of those who were sent surveys. Not surprisingly, the findings were that women surgeons feel stigmatized about pregnancy during surgical residency training.

Things are improving, but slowly. The percentage of women reporting that pregnancy during training is stigmatized fell from 76% for women who graduated more than 30 years ago, all the way down to 67% for women who graduated less than 10 years ago. The difference was statistically significant [p = 0.001] but hardly significant in the real world. At this rate, pregnancy among female surgical residents should be no longer stigmatized by about the year 2127.

According to Table 3 of the paper, the cumulative rate of pregnancy of female surgery residents who graduated fewer than 30 years ago is 32.2%. To put it another way, 1/3 of all female surgery residents became pregnant at least once during their five years of training.

The most interesting finding was that even women faculty and women residents were perceived as having a negative influence on women surgeons contemplating childbearing and this negativity has not abated over the years. Meanwhile, the percentage of both residents who are women and those who become pregnant is increasing.

Male residents can get sick or be injured and miss time. Should there be any reason to deal with pregnancy differently?

What do you think about this?

This blog appeared on Sermo [registration free for physicians] yesterday and 38% of the 26 doctors who voted felt that female surgical residents should feel stigmatized about pregnancy.


Unknown said...

Archaic attitudes about pregnancy remains the tip of the iceberg for why we continue to struggle with attracting women into academic surgery.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks for the comment. If you want to hear all sides of the issue. log on to Sermo. There were more than 30 comments.

Gwynedd said...

Disappointing to hear that women surgeons/residents were perceived as negative influences. I had our first child during residency (and my husband was the primary caregiver from age 6 months when I went back to work, until age 3.5 when I finished residency.) I've assumed and hoped that might make me more sympathetic? There weren't any precedents/models for me. That said, I have unfortunately overheard a couple of female residents express contempt for their colleagues who became pregnant, and I'm sure there are women out there who feel that since they deferred childbearing during residency, that's the "right" way to do it...

EXTREMELY disappointing to hear that over 1/3 of the doctors who voted felt female surgical residents *should* feel stigmatized. Your point that male residents can miss time is well taken. I'd worried a bit about how quickly I'd get back into the surgical swing of things after maternity leave - I worried less once I remembered the guys who'd been away doing health education/business/imaging research degrees for 3 years and then came back to finish residency. Yes, when someone announces they're going to be away for 6 months or so, it means the call schedules/service assignments may have to be reshuffled, but nobody objects (much) when it's for research or sick leave as opposed to pregnancy (presumed to be by choice.)

As an aside: that's one of the most catch-22 questions I got asked as a pregnant resident, whether it was a planned pregnancy. Options: Yes (implication: I deliberately chose to inconvenience my program), or No (implication: I'm an idiot who can't manage birth control.) It baffled me that anyone thought that was any of their business anyway!

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Gwynedd, great comments. Thanks. I particularly enjoyed your last paragraph. You can't win.

Anonymous said...

Recently had 4 pregnant residents at once in my residency program, it was fun trying to get the schedule to work.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I bet it was. I hope you are in a large program.

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