Another member, Angela, shares her experience: "I am just about to begin my third year of medical school, and I have an almost 10 month old son. My intention was to wait until fourth year to have a baby, but my husband and I revised our plans! Anyway, I was pregnant from December of first year on, and had my son 2 1/2 weeks into my second year. I went back and took my first exam of second year when he was 10 days old. My son is still breastfed to this day ... needless to say, I did a lot of pumping at school. In all, it was rough, but doable ... as long as you have a good support system and don't always need complete quiet to study!"
Read Part 1 of Having a Baby During Medical School.
The MomMD family-friendly medical school survey discovered that some schools do offer the option of extending the first or last two years of medical school. It is often something that is not widely publicized, but it is available to students on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, some (although a few) schools offer students considerable support.
"In terms of making accommodations, my school went all out for me," recalls Kay. "I was hoping to finish Fall quarter of my second year and had already completed midterms when I was put on bedrest (unexpectedly, of course!). I was still allowed to complete three of my five classes from bed. The Student Affairs office staff brought my final exams to my house and proctored them for me while I lay in bed. The Histology professor even came to my house, with slide projector, and projected the final exam slides on my bedroom wall! I also used my microscope lying in bed. I cannot believe the extent of helpfulness and supportiveness I got from my professors and the dean."
Emma also found her school was surprisingly helpful. "My situation is a bit unusual because I am an MD/PhD student. I was hoping I could have gotten pregnant and delivered in my fourth year of med school but not so... Because my research years count toward a fourth year in med school, I am not officially required to do a fourth year. I ended up having to split my third year in two with a maternity leave. I have already completed internal medicine, neuro, and family practice. Following my preggy leave, I'll have to finish surgery and ped/ob (save the hardest for last). Anyway, I did find the school administration very supportive (our dean of the students is female, and she has a son). The attending and residents were also very supportive with sending me home early when we were on call, not letting me take on too many patients, and avoiding climbing stairs for me in my last trimester. (In fact, one of the residents I worked with was also seven months pregnant at the time that we worked together). So, although having a baby in your third year of med school is harder, it is doable. The other women in my school who had babies did it during the first, second, or fourth year."
The above experiences may paint rather a rosy picture of having a baby during medical school. There are other MomMD members who experienced pressure from other students to have an abortion or leave medical school altogether. Many pregnant medical students may feel isolated and unable to discuss the situation with others. It is also worth mentioning that less than 20 of the over 190 U.S. medical schools bothered to reply to the family-friendly medical school survey, thus indicating their attitude to combining parenting and medical school.
However, with more women having a medical career and more non-traditional applicants, the number of medical school moms may rise. Sharing experiences and advice with other women can be invaluable, and in some instances a sole source of trusted support. MomMD is a reliable resource where women at all stages of their medical career can openly discuss the challenges of having a family.
One member tells MomMD, that "the advice from the mothers at this website has been wonderfully uplifting and a real testament to the strength of mothers." Support from family, friends, and the medical community is key to balancing both medical school and young children. Good luck!
More on motherhood and medicine
Choosing a Family-Friendly Medical School
Having, Raising Kids During Medical School, Part 1
Having, Raising Kids During Medical School, Part 2
Choosing a Family-Friendly Residency
Having a Baby During Residency
Raising Children During Medical Residency