Friday, June 13, 2008

Babymaking in medical school

I give all the female pre-meds that I meet the same possibly controversial advice: If you want to have children before age 30, you should seriously reconsider your decision to go to med school.

Of course, a lot of women don't go to med school straight out of college. I was recently talking to a 30 year old woman who was considering starting med school. With medical training lasting anywhere from 7 to 10 years, a 30+ year old female starting med school doesn't have much choice but to try to spawn during the training period.

So the next obvious question is, when is the best time to procreate during medical school?

First year: Might be a good time, provided you give birth to a magical baby who sleeps all the time, allowing you to study... in contrast to most babies, who require constant attention all day and night. (I don't have a magical baby.) Also, is formaldehyde teratogenic?

Second year: This year pretty much revolves around STEP 1. If you get pregnant this year, you risk having preggo brain (a scientifically documented condition) or possibly milk brain (also scientifically documented) during Step 1. And then OMG, you'll never match in dermatology!!

Third year: Picture being eight months pregnant, your feet swollen, 30+ pounds of extra weight hanging off you, having to pee every thirty minutes, horrible back pain, etc. Now picture all that, and also having to stand in one spot for six hours holding a retractor while getting yelled at by the surgeon because you're not holding it right and you don't know what makes up the inguinal triangle. Yeah. (Even without the pregnant part, it's not so much fun.)

Fourth year: This year is basically like a paid vacation (except in bizarre-o world, where you're the one who pays your employer). You're supposed to take classes that will help you for residency, but who are we kidding. Theoretically, this is the best time to have a baby. Cons: then your intern year starts and you still have the baby.

Still to come: When is the best time to have a baby in residency? Stay tuned!


  1. Everything I've ever been told about having a baby, much less being a Mother in Medicine, revolves around one basic concept: There is NO good time. Once that's out of the way, then it just comes down to the individual, like age, support system, etc. All throughout medical school, training, and a career in medicine there are obstacles to having a baby, so I think it's better to just go for it and deal with the consequences.

  2. Yes, there's definitely no good time. But is the corollary to this that it's better to just go for it and deal with the consequences? Maybe, depending on your age. The consequences are pretty unpleasant, not just for the mama, but also for baby as well. I do think the longer you wait, the better... as long as your biological clock can stand it.

  3. Or you can take time off... I had baby #1 3 months after I graduated (at age 25), and I waited to apply for residency until that fall -- so I had 10 months at home with him. 2 other classmates of mine did the same thing, and their babies were born earlier, during 4th year. Was not at all a problem when I applied for residency.

    For newest little man, I will have been out 8 months when I return in a few weeks. I'd planned to take off 6 months but he was a little early (ah, yet another possible risk of being pregnant during residency) and has needed the extra mama time. FOUR of us out of the nine females in my program were pregnant last year. I was the only one to take off the extra time, and I will be finishing up 20 months after my med school classmates in the same field. But I have two scrumptious little boys to show for it, and I wouldn't change a thing. :)

    1. I'm 16, and I aspire to be a pediatrician. Just lately, I was thinking about all of the schooling then I realized that I won't be able to have kids until my 30's. This really upset me since I've always wanted kids in my 20's. Your post is really giving me hope and making me feel a bit more positive about it. My one question is, with the cost of school and having children, how can this be affordable? The thought of debt is actually waking me up in the night already. Everyone is telling me not to worry, but I'd rather have someone actually experiencing it to talk to. Thanks so much.

  4. "With medical training lasting anywhere from 7 to 10 years, a 30+ year old female starting med school doesn't have much choice but to try to spawn during the training period."

    That might be the usual way it's done, but it's really not the only option: I read an op-ed piece years ago, floating the idea of having children when you're young and energetic and fertile, and THEN pursuing a career once the kidlets are in school and a bit more independent.

    It's certainly not the norm, but I don't think it's that outlandish of a recommendation, either. There were a number of older folks in my residency (both the program I was in and the one I taught in), and they did well - and were probably more stable than those of us who were young and single!

    (I, of course, did not see this article until well after son was born when I was 36! I don't think I could have done it (had a child) in residency, so I'll be interested to see what you recommend as the "best" time!)

  5. I'm jealous of those who had the option of taking time off. I'm in a small residency, so it would be an understatement to say I was strongly discouraged from taking more time off after my 6weeks. I could have done it, but I would have probably been blackballed.

    I know a few people who started med school with kids. What I can say about these people could take up a whole other entry, but long story short, all three are now divorced.

  6. I am presently in my final year of a three year med program and just about 6 months pregnant. That means I will be busting out a baby right in the middle of my clerkship, just before I apply for residency and about 7 months before I write my licensing exam.

    Ideal - definitely not. But there will never be a good time and I am already over that 30yo mark. The feeling around my class is that somewhere in the second to fourth year of residency (depending on the program) is the best time to have a kid. That would put me a little farther into grey hair territory than I am comfortable with and what if we decide to have more than one kidlet?

  7. I am 22 and heading into my last year of undergrad. I am going to take a year off before medical school because I switched majors and did not have anough of the needed classes to complete my MCATS. I am wondering if now is the time to have a baby? Would it be better for me, my husband, and the baby to have an entire year together before I begin? Would it harm my medical school career to have a toddler, or my toddler to have a medical school career? I do not want to risk anything but also do not want to have a new born at a later date that I cannot breastfeed and bond with. Any advice?


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