Objective: This study sought to determine childbearing patterns and decision making among female otolaryngologists.
Study design: Anonymous survey.
Setting: An anonymous survey was sent in 2020 to female otolaryngologists identified through their membership with the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
Methods: Data were analyzed concerning individual fertility and childbearing history, reflections regarding decision making, perceptions of workplace support, and estimations of objective childbearing potential.
Results: There were 398 responses. The mean age at first pregnancy was 32.3 years. Almost one-third of respondents who attempted to conceive (30.4%) were diagnosed with infertility. Of those who had their first pregnancy during training, 55% reported having substantial workplace support, as opposed to 70% of those whose first pregnancies followed completion of training (P = .01). When asked what they would do differently in retrospect, most women with infertility (65.0%) would have attempted conception earlier; 41 (41.0%) would have used cryopreservation to extend fertility; and 14 (14.0%) would have gone into a different specialty.
Conclusion: Female otolaryngologist respondents have children later in life than the general population, and a substantial proportion face infertility or have regrets about family planning decisions and career decision making. Increased awareness, further investigation, and targeted programs are needed to support the growing number of female otolaryngologists who desire both a career and a family.
Keywords: childbearing; conception; family planning; female otolaryngologists; female surgeons; infertility; motherhood.