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Childbearing and maternity leave in residency: determinants and well-being outcomes
  1. Shobha W Stack1,
  2. Christy M McKinney2,
  3. Charles Spiekerman3,
  4. Jennifer A Best1
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA
  2. 2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA
  3. 3 Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shobha W Stack, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA; shobhaws{at}


Purpose To characterise determinants of resident maternity leave and their effect on maternal and infant well-being. Among non-parents, to identify factors that influence the decision to delay childbearing

Study design In 2016, a survey was sent to female residents at a large academic medical centre on their experiences with maternity leave, the impact of personal and programme factors on length of leave, reasons for delaying childbearing and measures of well-being.

Results Forty-four percent (214/481) of residents responded. Fifty (23%) residents were parents, and 25 (12%) took maternity leave during training. The average maternity leave length was 8.4 weeks and did not differ across programme type, size or programme director gender but was longer for programmes with fewer women than men. The most common self-reported determinant of leave was financial. Residents with >8 weeks of leave were less likely to have postpartum depression or burnout and more likely to breastfeed longer, perceive support from colleagues and programme directors, and be satisfied with resident parenthood. Among 104 non-parents who were married or partnered, 84 (81%) were delaying childbearing, citing busy work schedules, concern for burdening colleagues and finances.

Conclusions This study suggests that multiple aspects of resident wellbeing are associated with longer maternity leaves, yet finances and professional relationships hinder length of leave and lead to delayed childbearing. These issues could be addressed at a programme level with clear policies describing how work is redistributed during parental leave and at an institutional and state level through provision of paid family leave.

  • maternity leave
  • childbearing
  • wellbeing
  • internship and residency
  • graduate medical education
  • medical education &amp
  • training
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  • Contributors SWS designed the study and questionnaire; wrote the introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion; and is responsible for the overall write-up. CMM was heavily involved in study design and analysis and responsible for assisting the redrafting and rewriting process as well as editing the overall paper. CS analysed the data and assisted drafting the methods. JAB designed the study, assisted editing the overall paper and was a supervisor. The manuscript has been seen and approved by all authors who have contributed significantly to satisfy the authorship criteria.

  • Funding This study was funded through a grant by the Center for Leadership and Innovation in Medical Education at the University of Washington School of Medicine and supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1 TR000423.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval University of Washington Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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