Historically, the structure of surgical programs discourages women interested in both surgery and motherhood from pursuing a surgical career, and women plastic surgeons have been more likely than men to have no children or to have fewer, later in life. Female plastic surgery trainees now constitute over one-third of residents, and pregnancy rates can be expected to rise, but with women now a majority in medical schools, the specialty’s maternity policies may be deterring interested women from entering the specialty. A survey study was conducted to measure reproductive outcomes and to identify current disparities between women and men plastic surgeons.
An anonymous electronic survey was distributed to American Society of Plastic Surgeons members and candidates, allowing comparisons of men’s and women’s responses. Differences were tested by the Fisher’s exact and chi-square tests.
Compared with male respondents, women were more likely than men to have no biological children (45.1 percent versus 23.1 percent). They were nearly twice as likely to delay having children because of the demands of training (72.6 percent versus 39.2 percent) and to experience infertility (26.3 percent versus 12.5 percent). Among the childless plastic surgeons, women were 11 times more likely to say they did not want children compared with men (20.1 percent versus 1.8 percent).
Poor institutional maternity support results in a persistent, wide gap in reproductive outcomes between female and male plastic surgeons. Establishing a universal, comprehensive parental support policy is essential to closing that gap.