Pregnancy during residency: a literature review

Acad Med. 2003 Apr;78(4):418-28. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200304000-00021.


Purpose: It is estimated that by 2010 30% of U.S. physicians will be women. Pregnancy during residency can and does happen in all programs, and continues to provide problems for many. The author reviews the issues surrounding pregnancy during residency by evaluating published commentaries and research reports.

Method: A literature search was conducted using Medline (January 1984-October 2001). Published articles were categorized as research or commentary. Research reports were sorted by content and summarized under three headings: mother and infant health, sources of stress and support for the pregnant resident, and reactions of colleagues to the pregnant resident.

Results: A total of 27 research reports were located; two additional reports published before 1984 were added because they complemented included studies. The majority of the studies in this review used retrospective self-report questionnaires, mostly completed by female residents and physicians. All reports suggested an increased risk of complications, especially adverse late-pregnancy events, for pregnant physicians. Pregnant residents found the physical demands of residency and lack of support from fellow residents and their departments most stressful. Anger and resentment toward the pregnant resident were common among not-pregnant residents, feelings particularly associated with expectations of increased workload. Individual maternity/parental leave policies were inconsistent. Policy development is discussed.

Conclusions: The studies in this review supported planning for residents' pregnancies, and the author advocates clear maternity/parental leave policies. The author comments on the use of existing data to make common sense changes and on the need for further studies to help clarify the issues and evaluate program changes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency* / organization & administration
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Organizational Policy
  • Parental Leave
  • Physicians, Women* / psychology
  • Pregnancy* / psychology
  • Pregnancy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Support
  • United States