(HealthDay News) — The challenges associated with having children during surgical residency may have considerable impact on the workforce, according to a study published online in JAMA Surgery.

Erika L. Rangel, MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the resident experience of childbearing during training using a self-administered 74-question survey. Surgeons who had one or more pregnancies during an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited US general surgery residency program were included.

The researchers found that 85.6% of the 347 female surgeons worked an unmodified schedule until birth; 63.6% reported concerns regarding the impact of their work schedule on their health or the health of their unborn child. Overall, 34.9% of participants reported residency program maternity leave policies. Most women (78.4%) received maternity leave of 6 weeks or less; 72% perceived leave duration as insufficient. For 82.2% of respondents, the American Board of Surgery leave policy was cited as a major barrier to the desired length of leave. Although breastfeeding was important to 95.6%, 58.1% stopped earlier than they wished because of poor access to lactation facilities and challenges associated with expressing milk. Thirty-nine percent of respondents strongly considered leaving surgical residency, and 29.5% would discourage female medical students from a surgical career.

“Multiple challenges facing pregnant surgical residents may negatively influence career satisfaction and must be addressed to attract and retain the most talented workforce,” the authors write.

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