When is the best time to have a baby in residency

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Jul 24, 2009
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I am going to be a 4th year surgery resident and my husband and I want to have a baby before we're both ancient...I plan to do a one year fellowship after residency and then hopefully do academic medicine...I don't need to be chair or chief, but do plan to work full time and do a range of cases.

I'm not sure when is the best career-time to have a baby, but do know that

a) there is no good time
b) there's no guarantee that one can plan when to have a baby
c) there are pros and cons to each time

However, that being said, does anyone have any thoughts about the following choices:

a) during 4th year (so I don't miss the big chief cases)
b) during 5th year (since I"ll be on my way out and after matching into fellowship)
c) during fellowship (probably the worst option)
d) during my 1st year in practice
e) some point later (assuming my ovarians aren't sawdust by then)

I guess my thought at this point is to get pregnant halfway through my fellowship year and then hopefully be able to negotiate a fall start (instead of July 1st) for a faculty position. Is this even realistic? Would I be considered blackballed if I were pregnant during interviewing for a faculty job? Has anyone dealt with this?

Thanks so much in advance to everyone.


Gargamel always had a thing for blondes.
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Jun 7, 2001
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Having a kid in between training and your first job could be problematic as far as insurance coverage and other factors....you may have cobra insurance coverage in between, but if you move into a different area you may have more out-of-pocket expenses and no income for a time period.

I know several people who had kids during chief year. Usually this was later in chief year (when people start getting a little more checked out) and they would be able to plan what rotation to be off on maternity. HOWEVER, ABS has requirements as to maximum amounts of time in residency clinical years that you can be off (I believe you must have 48 weeks actively working each year---and you are allowed an additional 2 weeks at some point in residency in case of illness or something, not sure if this can be in chief year)---as a result, those in my program chose to use vacation time during maternity so that they were still allowed to sit for the boards.

In random information, I have a friend whose contract specified that she would have unpaid maternity leave if she had a child in her first year of work.

Also, most people I know did NOT have a July 1 start date; usually people want some time to move and get settled and have later start dates (i.e. Aug 1 or Sept. 1), not to mention the need to get credentialed and licensed (which can often cause delays).


Research year!

I'm related to a very busy female general surgeon, and she waited until she was a few years out of residency, actually. She's the same age as my mom, who had her first at 25, but she waited another 10 years to have kids.

I'm only a first year surgery resident, and I've got a little boy, but I agree with the "never a good time." They're going to make things challenging at any time. Just knuckle down and go for it.


15+ Year Member
Sep 14, 2006
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You also have to factor in the way your program is set up. We only have two categoricals per year, so if one of the 5th years needed to take extended time off the other would be on home call as backup every night during that time (unless one of the attendings took pity on them, or they drop dead from exhaustion) as well as running both general surgery services every day. During fourth year we do a lot of outside rotations, so wouldn't mess up anyone else, but would mean that we would miss out on subspecialty training (some of which is probably required so that would be an issue). Or if you wait until after you would want to find a job that would be able to accommodate your absence (or wait to start one assuming your partner could support the family for the duration of your unemployment.

Winged Scapula

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Apr 9, 2000
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Faculty positions do not automatically start July 1st. They start whenever a job opens up.

As noted above, expect to take several months to get credentialed, on insurance plans, etc. even in academia, so unless you accept a job in the fall prior or do so in a state where you are already licensed, expect to take some time - those interviews are also lengthy, with second visits, short-lists, etc. Faculty positions are available all year long - there is no "season" to start.

And I don't know how ancient you are, but there really isn't a good time; as noted above, only you can determine the culture of your program and whether or not you would be supported in taking time off, not doing the workload of your fellow Chiefs, etc.. If you are worried about it, do it after fellowship (or perhaps during fellowship - depending on the presumed difficulty of that fellowship).