Friday, April 30, 2010

MiM Mailbag: Having kids during 4th year before ortho residency?

I am a 1st yr medical student who is interested in Orthopedic surgery. My husband and I were talking about when the best time to have a baby during medical school/residency is. I am military so my residency will be in an Army facility. Based on your experiences, would having a child during 4th year be feasible?

Thanks for your opinions



  1. These are some (admittedly somewhat bitter) entries I wrote about having kids during medical training:

  2. I would be interested in the answers to this question as well. I'm an M3, planning on having a baby at the end of my 4th year when I take some time off. I plan on going into Ob/Gyn. Wondering if I'll survive with a baby..

  3. Can anyone else chime in? I am currently an MS 2 but also plan on either 3rd year or 4th year as for pregnancy and am trying to plan, gain as much perspective as possible before then...

  4. Hello - I'm an MS2 from Penn State. I have a 2-year-old daughter and am planning a second baby for MS4, before my OB/GYN residency. Please note that your family planning depends largely upon (1) your specific medical school's policies re: the amount of "vacation" time permitted in 4th year, (2) the nature of your future residency program, and (3) your luck/fertility in timing a pregnancy

    I've calculated that if I power through MS3 and early MS4 without taking any breaks, I can have up to 3 months free, which I plan to take OCT-JAN of MS4. This means my baby will be approx. 9 months old when I begin OB/GYN internship in July following MS4, allowing me plenty of breastfeeding time, and getting baby to a less "demanding" age before internship. I also plan to have low-stress MS4 electives following the birth of my child (path research, humanities, etc). The 3 months I take for maternity will double as my interview season.

    For women in medicine, MS4 may be the ONLY convenient time to have a child. Any maternity break during residency will be minimal, and force your co-residents to compensate for your absence. Also keep in mind that different residency programs, even in the same specialty, have different lifestyles. My home OB/GYN residency has reasonable work hours and I hope to stay here.

    And of coarse this is all assuming I time my conception just right.

    See my blog for more info:

  5. My mom calls me Pollyanna to a fault. I am just pre-empting the embarrassingly discouraging info I am about to dole out.

    I loved my peds-ortho rotation, and a lot of the all-male residents/attendings at my program encouraged me to think about the specialty - my grades were good enough and my height lends itself well to manipulating hardware in the OR. I was flattered, so I looked into it.

    I found and met one female orthopod who deeply regretted her career choice because she lost out on time with her family too much. She was in her 50's, and times have changed, but, I got scared.

    I had a good friend that went into orthopedics. She was single when she made her choice. She got married. Decided to start a family. Switched, mid-training, to radiology.

    I am NOT trying to discourage your choice at all - just giving you the information I got. I hope that some orthopedic surgeon mom's will read this and blast the hell out of whatever I had to say - so I can see that it can be done (and have something else to regret when I am depressed - not that I don't love my field!).

    My advice - check out programs. Seek out other women who have forged the path and call them, e-mail them - see how they are doing. Not only residents, but people with careers and better perspective on lifestyle post-residency (and happier now that they are out of residency).

    Good luck - Gizabeth

  6. I have a single female friend who does ortho at UCSF. LOVES IT. Don't know what her plans are for having babies. I suspect ortho residency treats maternity leave like other surgical residencies i.e. it isn't easy.

    One thing nobody has mentioned is the possibility of having a baby during a research year or while pursuing a PhD or MA. I'm combined degree, and I'll be too old to reproduce (with my own eggs) if I wait until I'm done with all my training, so it's going to be now or never. The the thing is, in MD-PhD land, you CAN take another year, and it's not another year on the tenure clock. I know that a lot of surgical programs require research during residency, so perhaps that would be something worth looking into.

    Something to think about anyway.

  7. There are a LOT of discussions of this topic on You can read the discussions even without an account.

  8. THe best time to be pregnant and have a maternity leave is your 4th year of med school. However, the worst time to have a newborn is your intern year.

  9. Hi there. Here's my story~

    I'm an M3 pregnant with my 2nd. I think the best time in med school to have a kid is the summer between M1 and M2 years--3 months off, then (hopefully) studying from home and being with baby as much as possible during M2 year. I did that with my first and it worked out very well.

    I'm now finishing up 3rd year and due in July. I'm taking a year-long LOA from school to be with my kiddos, and so glad to do it.

    I considered using my 3 vacation months as maternity leave, but once I found out that my school is stingy in letting students leave a rotation for interviews, I realized I would need to take those vacation months (Nov-Dec-Jan) for interviewing. The summer of 4th year will also be very busy applying, getting LORs, and rockin' the sub-internships.

    For me, being pregnant is 1000 times easier than being a new mom of a sweet little baby; I wanted to avoid being pregnant or nursing during intern year at all costs, which meant having babies sooner.

    (Disclosure: I'm older than the average med student so I wanted to start a family now, and my non-medical husband and extended family are 100% supportive and helpful when it comes to childcare. I'm also going into a more family-friendly field.)

    Hope that helped!

  10. I agree with RH+ 1,000%. Had a baby March of my 4th year, was able to have 10 weeks of time with her until I started internship orientation (I'm also Military - AD Navy) but this intern year has been the absolute hardest of my life. If I had to go back and do it over, I would probably not have an infant that young while an intern. Had I known I would have probably had her third year so she was a little more independent when I was an intern.

    You feel so pulled in every direction from home and call and it's tough. I was only able to pump for 4 months and my supply instantly dropped when I started having q3 call. The ortho program at my hospital is one of the best in the Navy and there is one woman MD and one woman PA (we have a 1 year ortho PA fellowship). Neither are married and NO kids. I'm not saying it's impossible but the Army won't care if you have kids and residency is hard no matter what.

    Good luck! No matter what happens you will make it work as well as you can for you!

  11. My standard advice is to have kids before med school, and apply as soon as they are potty trained. If you can't go back in time, 4th year is almost always the unanimous folk wisdom for the best time to have a baby. It is by far your most flexible year, and I know quite a few medical students who chose to do it then.

    Looking over MomMD and (if you dare, and can dodge the rampant anti-mom in medicine bias there) will have lots of posts on this.

    A few things to consider: Do you want more than one child? Then you have to consider also having a baby in residency.

    How are you going to (try to) time this? You will most likely be pregnant, or a brand new mom, on some interviews and audition rotations.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I am under the impression the military match is a lot less competitive than the MD match. If so, the interview and audition rotations may not be a big deal. Also, this next point might not be, but it may be, to you or the other commenters who are also in a similar predicament.

    Ortho is a quite competitive specialty. So, keep that in mind. It is also a highly male dominate field. I don't want to discourage you at all My fellow co-VP of AMWA who was in the Vagina Monologues with me is on an ortho-or-die track right now. I just know she is nervous about matching. And she is not planning on being pregnant on rotations or on interviews.

    Should being pregnant or a mom matter? No, in an ideal world. But, in a competitive, male dominated specialty? It might.

  12. Oh! And, can't believe I forgot: fertility and reproduction is a fickle, unpredictable thing. So, please keep in mind that what we want and what we get might be very, very different things!

    I am not just talking about whether or not you get pregnant, and whether or not it sticks, but also how easy or hard the pregnancy and birth is on you, physically and emotionally.

    Good luck in school and all things reproductive!

  13. Agree with Rh+. Would seriously think twice about starting a challenging internship with a new baby. In my opinion any time after internship is better. I had my son during a research year and that worked out OK. It really helped that I was able to establish myself in my program before I had a child.

  14. One more things that hasn't come up in these answers. I had a kid in November of my 4th year and then extended my 4th year over 2 years--many people in my med school extended for all sorts of reasons, not just having babies. I did all of my hard rotations in the first few months of 4th year and only had about 4 months of rotations to do over the next year and a half before starting internship and 2 of them were easy research months. I had lots of time off with my son and didn't start internship until he was about 18 months old. It was a really lovely way to do it and i highly encourage people to consider extending med school if possible.

  15. I have a question too! Does anyone have any insight for women getting started late? (late 20s to 30ish) Did anyone have kids during their glide year after a post-bacc or other late preparation? I was thinking perhaps it would be good to have kids a little older during med school, and it leaves a possible option for a second child...anyone in that boat?

  16. way more flexibility for kids with md/phd. had my daughter in 4th year, then did a post-doc to stay home with her for a bit. am doing a a research tract residency and will have way easier schedule now for second kid during residency...
    research time in fellowship, and the blocks in surgery residency are all good times... just need to get them to sleep through the night before you you restart brutal call...

  17. I was thinking of going into peds specializing in cardiac surgery and wondering if anyone had any advice about when would be the best time to possiby have a child. I was thinking after medical school but I keep seeing a lot of advice about having children the last year of medical school. Is there any other good time?

  18. I was thinking of going into peds specializing in cardiac surgery and wondering if anyone had any advice about when would be the best time to possiby have a child. I was thinking after medical school but I keep seeing a lot of advice about having children the last year of medical school. Is there any other good time?

  19. My daughter was 1 year old when I started internship. Nothing compares to having a newborn baby. I cannot imagine having a child younger than 1 year and going through internship.


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