Jun 12, 2018
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Hi everyone!

I'm starting medical school in the fall (super early to be asking this question, I know), and I realized that I know very little about the work-family balance that comes with being a doctor.

My significant other and I are really interested in having kids someday, and he really wants to have one while I'm in medical school. I'm reticent to do that because 1) it would obviously interfere with my studying and 2) i'm concerned that it'll put a damper on my social life and flexibility. (I'm a traditional applicant, he's finishing up his masters program in computer science so we're both quite young).

We discussed starting a family while I'm in residency too, but I know I'll be working crazy hours and I have no idea how I could be pregnant during then, much less be an involved mother.

But if I wait until after residency, I could easily be into my 30s depending on the field I choose to pursue and starting a career. It really doesn't seem like there's ever a good time to start a family, which is disappointing.

Any and all advice is welcome, I'm particularly curious to hear from female residents or female medical students and/or their spouses that have any personal experience. (Sadly, I only ever had the chance to shadow male doctors married to non-doctors.) When do you think is the most opportune time to be pregnant/have a child as a woman in the medical field?
 

Stagg737

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As you noted, there isn't really a good time unless you take a year off for research or something. There aren't one times that are worse though. I would not have child in the months before Step 1, which will be one of the more crucial points in your career I found you're shooting for dor a compeitive field. I'd also advise against being pregnant during the interview season sure to potential bias. Pregnancy during residency will depend on both of the field and the specific program. For some people it isn't too bad, for others they say that it was the worst time of their lives.

I personally think the sweet spot is during spring of your fourth year. If you can have a baby around February or March you'll be able to have several months of a relatively easy schedule before starting residency when things will pick up very quickly.
 
Jun 12, 2018
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As you noted, there isn't really a good time unless you take a year off for research or something. There aren't one times that are worse though. I would not have child in the months before Step 1, which will be one of the more crucial points in your career I found you're shooting for dor a compeitive field. I'd also advise against being pregnant during the interview season sure to potential bias. Pregnancy during residency will depend on both of the field and the specific program. For some people it isn't too bad, for others they say that it was the worst time of their lives.

I personally think the sweet spot is during spring of your fourth year. If you can have a baby around February or March you'll be able to have several months of a relatively easy schedule before starting residency when things will pick up very quickly.
Thank you so much for your input! Do MS4s finish interviews by spring of their 4th year? I was under the impression interviews went on into the spring for some fields. Also, if you don't mind me asking, did you or your partner go through this personally?
 

Stagg737

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Thank you so much for your input! Do MS4s finish interviews by spring of their 4th year? I was under the impression interviews went on into the spring for some fields. Also, if you don't mind me asking, did you or your partner go through this personally?
Match day is in mid-March, so there are no interviews after that. Residency typically starts July 1 for most programs. So an early April birth date is pretty ideal imo (what we tried to do). We did. I tried to convince my wife to wait until after intern year, but she was insistent on trying earlier so we tried for spring of M4. Missed and had a kid 4 weeks into my intern year. Definitely would not recommend that timing, lol.
 

tr

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Med school, definitely. The earlier the better. The first two years are all lecture/group and you can watch lecture videos from home if you need to. Most importantly, your maternity leave inconveniences nobody but yourself. If you have a baby early in your first year the kid could be nearing two by the time you hit the first hard clinical time commitment in third year. That's gold because it's a heck of a lot easier to arrange care for a two year old than an infant.

You definitely don't want to have a baby during third year of medical school, as it is likely to mess with your major clinical year grades,
maternity leave will mess up your rotation schedule, and also you will just be made to feel bad/guilty all the time for needing accommodations.

Next best could be early or mid-fourth year. Fourth year is pretty low-key and a good time to have a baby. The downside is you will have to be pregnant during third year which could be rough, especially if you are throwing up a lot or have any medical complications. The other downside is the baby is still pretty young when you head into intern year of residency, which is likely the toughest year of clinical training.
(I see Stagg up above thinks it's just fine to start intern year with a four-month-old. May I respectfully suggest that that may have something to do with his being the Dad and not the Mom.)
Fourth year baby works better if you take a fifth year, like to do research or a master's in public health or something, or else just a gap year to chill with your baby.

Definitely do not want to enter intern year with a young infant, deliver an infant during intern year, or even really be pregnant during intern year if you can avoid it. The next best opportunity is probably 3rd or 4th year of residency depending on what field you choose. Easier if it's derm, rads, or psych than if it's neurosurgery or gen surg. Some residencies have a built-in research year, that's a pretty good time to have a baby.

After residency is very variable. Although you'll still be young if you go straight through, it can be hard to start a new job and then have to take maternity leave off the bat, before you've built up any credibility or vacation time or know people well enough to get them to cover for you. This is very specialty- and job-dependent though.

The bottom line is that clinical care is inflexible and demanding and totally incompatible with the also inflexible and demanding needs of a young infant. The best times to have a baby are therefore the times when you have the least clinical responsibility. First two years of med school, fourth year of med school, and possibly research or light-duty years late in residency if applicable to your specialty. If you are in the unusual position of being economically and psychosocially ready to have a baby at the start of med school, I'd suggest you take the opportunity. Remember, sleep deprivation is easier on the young.
 
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J ROD

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End of first year/beginning of second year, end of fourth year like mentioned above, near the end of residency. Much also depends on what specialty you go into. Like surgery probably is not good time. Psychiatry can pretty much do it after intern year. I can think of 6 that have had babies. One was intern year.
 
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futuremdforme

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You're super young so you can be kind of specific in your timing. Like Jrod said, end of first year -- and if the timing is too close to start of 2nd year then wait. If you want to do a super competitive specialty, it might make your application weaker but also might not, lots of parents do really well in med school even with young babies. You could also consider aiming for residency in states with better maternity leave or programs that offer it as benefits. And another thing to consider is that most people like to have their kids fairly close together (like not a 10 year gap) so once you get started, you might want more so make sure you're thinking of multiple kids not just one! Feel free to PM if you want.
 
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michaelakay

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My advice is honestly to do what you want!

I got pregnant during my senior year of undergrad after I was accepted to two medical schools. Since my son was due in the middle of the fall semester, I decided to defer admission for a year. Now I'm in my first year of medical school and am pregnant again, due early July. We decided to try for a second baby during the summer between first and second year because it's pretty much the only summer we get. It's not for everyone, but I honestly love being a mother in medical school. I can't speak to how other times might be better, but for me, having kids early in medical school has been great. At my campus, we have about 60 students and 6 of us are mothers, one is a father. A number of my classmates have shared with me that they're considering having a baby third or fourth year. I made my decision based on when would be the easiest time to have a small maternity leave, but I hear stories about women who give birth in the middle of the semester and still find a way to make it happen (not something I would super recommend, but just saying it can be done).

For me, the important questions I would be asking myself are:

How much/what kind of support do I have?
This is the biggest thing in my opinion. Having your parents or other trustworthy babysitters nearby makes a huge difference. My husband and I moved in with my parents for medical school. They love seeing their grandson everyday and I love that we have someone to turn to when we need a break. This is true during any phase of having children and a career, but it's something that really helps when you have a test to study for and you need childcare in the evening.

What are your goals in medical school?
I made a decision that I was okay with not aiming for the super competitive specialties so I could have more time with my family. Since I'm a part of a pass/fail curriculum, I like that I don't have to worry about racing to the top of the class. I put in solid work, and then I go home to my family, and I feel good about it. But if you're a super competitive type, you might struggle more with those decisions, and you might want to wait until you reach some of those goals first.

What's your curriculum like?
Are you required to be in class every day all day? What's your partner's schedule like? You might hear stories of people studying 15 hours a day and stories of people studying way less. Your experience will be unique. For our second baby, I decided to start first year, see how the first few months went, and then decided to try to get pregnant because I felt like a second baby would be good. You might feel like it's easier to make a decision once you've started school and see what your daily life is like.

That's the cliff notes version of how I feel about being a mom in medical school. I don't want to overshare but I love talking about motherhood so feel free to message me if you want to talk more!