The 2021 study, conducted by Dr Jasmina Kevric, Dr Russell Hodgson and Dr Grace Chew, analysed the responses of 1,099 doctors and found more than 60 per cent delayed starting a family due to their career.
Key findings include:
- The median age of female doctors at the time of their first child was 32.4
- Fertility testing was undertaken by 37 per cent of female doctors
- 27 per cent of female doctors had in vitro fertilisation (IVF)
- More than 60 per cent of respondents delayed family planning due to work
- Pregnancy loss occurred in 36 per cent of respondents
- 50 per cent suffered a pregnancy complication
- 75 per cent of medical mothers worked more than 8 hours per day in their third trimester
- There were significant differences between specialists, with surgeons working longer hours before and after pregnancy,
- Surgeons have greater access to maternity leave than general practitioners
- Despite various barriers, 69 per cent of medical mothers breastfeed for more than six months
- Male doctors were more likely to have more than two children (30.8 per cent) compared to female doctors (15.6 per cent)
Dr Jasmina Kevric, a Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) surgical trainee and surgical registrar at Northern Hospital in Melbourne said delaying family planning due to training requirements can increase age-related pregnancy complications.
“Long working hours increase the risks of neonatal complications, while options for part-time training are limited and only suit those in early pregnancy,” Dr Kevric said.
“In the past seven years I have not come across one pregnant registrar.”
Dr Russell Hodgson, a RACS Fellow and specialist HPB and general surgeon said the current system is not making it easy for surgical trainees to start a family.
“Something radical needs to occur because it’s unacceptable one in three female doctors suffer a pregnancy loss,” Dr Hodgson said.
“There needs to be a greater emphasis placed on balance, where medical graduates can start their specialties earlier or undertake part-time training.”
Dr Grace Chew, a RACS Fellow and general surgeon has been privy to the difficulties experienced by trainees faced with juggling surgical training and family life.
“Many residents and registrars have shared personal stories of pregnancy-associated complications such as miscarriage, unsuccessful IVF cycles, neonatal deaths, childhood illnesses and marriage stress,” Dr Chew said.
“There should be opportunities for female surgeons to have the career they want, without the fertility and pregnancy complications.”
Dr Kevric, Dr Hodgson and Dr Chew’s research will be unveiled at the the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress in Brisbane (2-6 May).
The Congress is the largest multi-disciplinary surgical meeting held in the southern hemisphere and brings together some of the top surgical and medical minds from across New Zealand, Australia, and the rest of the world.
For more information about the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress, please visit: https://asc.surgeons.org/
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