7 Tips for Having a Baby During Residency

Lauren P. Kennedy, BA


July 15, 2016

You're in the midst of your residency, and you're already burning the candle at both ends. You routinely log between 90 and 100 hours per week on clinical rotations. Maybe you're even tackling additional committee assignments. Can you really afford to start a family now?

If you're a female resident, odds are you're also in your prime childbearing years. What's more, you may worry about being pregnant when you're ready to interview for jobs, which could require cross-country travel. Or when you're about to launch or join a practice—the timing doesn't feel optimal then, either.

And what if you want two, three, or even more kids? Don't you need to get started soon?

Many residents in their mid- to late 20s are choosing to have children during their programs[1,2]—a daunting but doable challenge, say the following female physicians and their husbands. Having walked the walk, they are prepared to talk the talk.

Here are their tips:

1. Think about timing. Four residents contributed to this article, and all four of them said: "If possible, don't get pregnant during your first year of residency."

Of course, one of them did have a baby during what many consider to be the toughest time: the internship year. Kelly Byrd, DO, is a mother of two who currently works in pediatrics at an emergency department in Memphis, Tennessee.

"I think I'd suggest waiting until at least the second year, when you have more control over your schedule," she says.

Byrd's husband Ken was a resident in internal medicine at the time, too; he understood the challenges and supported her unequivocally. This is why they once remembered their wedding anniversary a full week after the fact—and then laughed about it. It's also why they chose to do it all over again: The Byrds' second child was born in January 2015, a few months before Kelly completed her residency.

2. Create a support system. Angie Schupp, MD, a pediatrician based in Knoxville, Tennessee, recalls how her husband, Rick, a pastor with flexible hours, was a true blessing when she had a baby during her first year of residency in internal medicine and pediatrics. "I couldn't have done it without him," she says. "He cooked, did childcare—everything." They have three kids now (she was pregnant with their second child during her third year of residency). Schupp works at a busy practice, and her husband still remains a divine inspiration at home.

Relying on her parents for help is how Ajija Van Geison, MD, who gave birth to her second child during her second year of residency, got by. "I was fortunate; my parents lived in my area. My husband is a fireman, and he worked 24-hour shifts at times. So my parents often took care of the kids," she says.

Other residents rely on a nanny (one who can easily work late when a resident's hours inevitably run long). Or, like Margaret Cocks, MD, PhD, a second year pathology resident at Johns Hopkins University with an 11-month-old and a real estate agent for a husband, choose full-time day care.

(See our sample schedules below for an idea of what life with baby will be like.)


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