Surgery during pregnancy - results of a German questionnaire

Innov Surg Sci. 2020 Oct 8;5(1-2):21-26. doi: 10.1515/iss-2020-0025. eCollection 2020 Mar.


Objectives: Worldwide, not only the number of female medical students, but also of female surgeons increases. Simultaneously, younger generations take a closer look to their work-life balance. With this in mind, it seems necessary to evaluate the expectations of female surgeons in particular with respect to pregnancy during their surgical career.

Methods: Therefore, a nationwide survey was conducted in Germany from July to December 2016 under the auspices of the German Society of Surgery as well as the Professional Board of German Surgeons. The questionnaire involved 2,294 female surgeons and 1,843 complete records were evaluated.

Results: Of the analyzed answers, 62% of the women (n=781) were operating during pregnancy. The joy of surgery (91.6%), followed by team spirit (57.1%), were the main motivations to perform operations while pregnant. Operative activity decreased from 30.8% in the first 3 months of pregnancy to 21.5% during the last three months. Regarding the possible complaints, e.g., leg edema, back pain, premature labor and vaginal bleeding, there were no significant differences between the women with or without activity in the operating room. Sick leave due to pregnancy (1-10 days) was stated by 40.4% of respondents.

Conclusion: Despite strong legal regulations for pregnant surgeons, the survey showed that most female surgeons are eager to operate despite their pregnancy. The results also demonstrate no significant differences regarding complications during pregnancy- or pregnant-dependent absence from work. Hospitals and surgical departments are asked to establish proper working conditions for pregnant surgeons and pregnancy should not be an obstacle for a career in surgery.

Keywords: female surgeons; surgery during pregnancy; surgical career; work-life-balance.