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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Oct;25(10):1059-1065. Epub 2016 Jun 27.

Fertility and Childbearing Among American Female Physicians.

Author information

1
Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan , Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Female physicians may experience unique challenges regarding fertility and family planning. We sought to determine childbearing patterns and decision-making among American female physicians.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

In 2012-2013, we surveyed a random sample of 600 female physicians who graduated medical school between 1995 and 2000. Primary outcome measures included fertility and childbearing history, reflections regarding decision-making, perceptions of workplace support, and estimations of childbearing potential.

RESULTS:

Response rate was 54.5% (327/600). A majority (82.0%) of the sample were parents, 77.4% had biological children with an average of 2.3 children. Average age at medical school graduation was 27.5 years, at completion of training (completion of medical school, residency, and/or fellowship) was 31.6 years, and at first pregnancy was 30.4 years. Nearly one quarter (24.1%) of respondents who had attempted conception were diagnosed with infertility, with an average age at diagnosis of 33.7 years. Among those with infertility, 29.3% reported diminished ovarian reserve. When asked what they would do differently in retrospect, most respondents (56.8%) would do nothing differently regarding fertility/conception/childbearing, 28.6% would have attempted conception earlier, 17.1% would have gone into a different specialty, and 7.0% would have used cryopreservation to extend fertility. Fewer of those whose first pregnancy was in medical school perceived substantial workplace support (68.2%) than those whose first pregnancies followed training (88.6%).

CONCLUSIONS:

A substantial proportion of female physicians have faced infertility or have regrets about family planning decisions and career decision-making. Combining a medical career with motherhood continues to pose challenges, meriting further investigation and targeted support.

KEYWORDS:

childbearing; conception; family planning; female physicians; infertility; motherhood

PMID:
27347614
DOI:
10.1089/jwh.2015.5638
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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