Plastic surgery trainees who wish to start a family face challenges. This is the first study to collect data directly from residents and fellows to understand issues surrounding childbearing and to propose solutions.
Following institutional review board approval, an anonymous survey was distributed to all current plastic surgery residents and fellows in the United States. Data regarding demographics, obstetrical complications, parental leave, breastfeeding, and use of assisted reproductive technology were collected.
The survey was completed by 307 trainees, for a resident response rate of 27.0 percent. Mean age of the respondents was 31.7 ± 3.8 years, 58.6 percent were married, and 35.3 percent reported at least one pregnancy for themselves or for their partner. Both male (67.4 percent) and female (76.5 percent) respondents intentionally postponed having children because of career. Women were significantly more likely to report negative stigma attached to pregnancy (70.4 percent versus 51.1 percent; p = 0.003) and plan to delay childbearing until after training. Fifty-six percent of female trainees reported an obstetrical complication. Assisted reproductive technology was used by 19.6 percent of trainees. Mean maternity leave was 5.5 weeks, with 44.4 percent taking less than 6 weeks. Mean paternity leave was 1.2 weeks. Sixty-two percent of women and 51.4 percent of men reported dissatisfaction with leave. Sixty-one percent of female trainees breastfed for 6 months and 19.5 percent continued for 12 months. Lactation facilities were available near operating rooms for 29.4 percent of respondents.
Plastic surgery training may negatively impact fertility, obstetrical health, and breastfeeding practices. The data presented in this article provide the groundwork for identifying areas of concern and potential solutions.