• Users Online: 252
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 665-666

The pregnant physician: The elephant in the room

Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission03-Jul-2020
Date of Decision08-Jul-2020
Date of Acceptance09-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication19-Sep-2020

Correspondence Address:
Deepa Nair
1228, Homi Bhabha Block, Tata Memorial Centre, Dr. Ernest Borges Marg, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CRST.CRST_232_20

Get Permissions

How to cite this article:
Tuljapurkar V, Nair D. The pregnant physician: The elephant in the room. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:665-6

How to cite this URL:
Tuljapurkar V, Nair D. The pregnant physician: The elephant in the room. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 30];3:665-6. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2020/3/3/665/295560

In the past few decades, more and more women have entered the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and the sight of a female physician in a hospital is no longer a rarity. Women now are an integral part of the health-care system. However, despite the significant progress we have made pertaining to issues like gender equality, workplace rights, and payment disparities, issues specific to women's health and well-being remain largely unaddressed.

In spite of all the societal advances, parenting and childcare still primarily remain the responsibilities of a woman. For women physicians in training, balancing these responsibilities along with long and arduous medical residency is a herculean challenge. Two medical oncology residents at the Tata Memorial Hospital, who successfully managed their residency training with the challenges of motherhood, beautifully shared their experiences.[1],[2] Reading their articles brought back the bittersweet memories of our pregnancies during residency.

Most female residents are in their prime childbearing years when they enter residency programs, where on-call schedules and workplace responsibilities are often found to be clashing with the thought of their relentlessly ticking biological clocks, societal pressures to conceive, and other family responsibilities. As mentioned by Dr. Boppana,[2] many young female physicians are forced to choose between joining residency programs in their preferred specialties and planning a family. Many female physicians either choose to enter a less demanding specialty because of family responsibilities or delay resuming full-time work or prefer to work part-time after childbirth.[3],[4]

Such decisions are largely influenced by the attitudes of the program directors or peers, who may think that pregnant residents are a hindrance to the smooth working of a unit. Moreover, the selection of female residents for admission into a program may be influenced by their reproductive choices.[5] These issues have been well reported, especially in the literature from the Western world, but data from India are sparse. Both Dr. Majumdar and Dr. Boppana[1],[2] have been fortunate to have superiors and colleagues who were extremely cooperative in allowing flexible duty timings and an extended leave of absence. However, this is not universal, and there are no uniform protocols for residency programs across India.

Surgical residents particularly experience more guilt and perceive negative stigma related to pregnancy.[6] The perceived challenges of integrating motherhood into the initially chosen subspecialty can cause up to 15% of the surgical residents to change their subspecialty.[6] Pregnancy and motherhood can make surgical residency particularly challenging with exhaustion and lack of sleep adding to the stresses of residency.[7]

Although the Government of India provides comprehensive maternity benefits, residents being a floating population cannot adequately avail these. The lack of adequate maternity benefits and support for childcare and breastfeeding at workplaces are important issues that may impact the career paths of many female residents and young physicians who may choose to opt for a less demanding job early in their careers to fulfill family responsibilities.[4] The majority of the issues stated here can be addressed with a policy change at the institutional level by granting an extended maternity leave, flexible work timings, and providing breastfeeding and childcare facilities at the hospitals.

Professional fulfillment and motherhood need not be mutually exclusive. Residency for several female physicians is an experience defined by the joy of motherhood, the stresses of residency, and the insecurity of being left behind by peers. However, it can be enhanced with the understanding and support of families, both at home and at work. Support from mentors[2] goes a long way in creating a conducive learning environment for female residents and physicians in the early stages of their careers and promotes their professional growth. After all, it does “take a village to raise a child.”

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Majumdar S. Pregnancy and motherhood during residency. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:273-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Boppana M. Motherhood during medical oncology training: A tough, beautiful and memorable journey. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:270-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
  [Full text]  
Frank E, Zhao Z, Sen S, Guille C. Gender disparities in work and parental status among early career physicians. JAMA Netw Open 2019;2:e198340.  Back to cited text no. 3
Rangel EL, Smink DS, Castillo-Angeles M, Kwakye G, Changala M, Haider AH, et al. Pregnancy and motherhood during surgical training. JAMA Surg 2018;153:644-52.  Back to cited text no. 4
Attieh E, Maalouf S, Chalfoun C, Abdayem P, Nemr E, Kesrouani A. Impact of female gender and perspectives of pregnancy on admission in residency programs. Reprod Health 2018;15:121.  Back to cited text no. 5
Rangel EL, Lyu H, Haider AH, Castillo-Angeles M, Doherty GM, Smink DS. Factors associated with residency and career dissatisfaction in childbearing surgical residents. JAMA Surg 2018;153:1004-11.  Back to cited text no. 6
Jiwnani S. On being a surgeon and a mother. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2019;2:1-3.  Back to cited text no. 7
  [Full text]  


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded11    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal