Are residents delaying parenthood?

Being a medical resident can be enormously rewarding, but it’s also time consuming and may lead to the choice to delay having children. What’s driving these decisions?

For medical school graduates, residency is a time of learning and honing skills as a health care professional. It’s also a busy time that may lead residents to making alter life plans, such as when to start a family. A survey of residents examined whether they are delaying having children, what determined resident parental leave, and the associations with overall well-being.1

The investigators sent a survey to the pediatric residents in 13 programs between October 2019 and May 2020. The survey asked questions about demographics, the desire for children, and what the logistics for parental leave were in the resident’s program. Outcomes from the survey included burnout and depression screening results, parental leave length, satisfaction with parental leave and parenthood decisions, and satisfaction with duration of breastfeeding.

From a potential pool of 845 residents, 639 responded to the survey. A significant number of the residents (330) stated that they had delayed having children during their time in residency and 97 of those residents said that they were dissatisfied with the decision to delay. The most common reasons cited for the delay were a busy work schedule (89.7%), finances (50.9%), and not wanting to extend residency further (41.2%). Among the 639 respondents, 16% were parents and 4% were either pregnant or had a pregnant partner. A period of parental leave was stated by 61 residents and two-thirds of those who used it expressed unhappiness with the length of leave. The most common determinant of parental leave duration was the resident’s desire to not extend his or her training further.

Investigators concluded that many residents are choosing to put off having children until after the conclusion of their program and often were not happy with the decision to delay. When residents do take parental leave, it’s often short and varied in length, and there is a positive link between longer periods of leave and wellbeing.

Reference

1. Dundon K, Powell W, Wilder J, et al. Parenthood and parental leave decisions in pediatric residency. Pediatrics. September 28, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1542/peds.2021-050107