On my post about how women are ruining medicine, one of the comments was the following:
"For me as a resident, when my female colleagues go out on maternity, we get pulled off our vacations, electives and otherwise down time to cover for them, and this infuriates me. Doesn't seem fair that I should have to suffer. Pregnancy is a choice, so just plan wisely and think about those your decisions might effect [sic]."
I was going to respond to this as a comment, but I realized I didn't have a post scheduled for today, so I figured I'd make it an entry so others could weigh in. Plus it turns out I had a lot to say on the matter!
First, I think this is a super common sentiment among male residents as well as among the female residents who don't get pregnant, even if they don't say it. I applaud the commenter for being honest. Let me respond:
A lot of people argue that covering for a pregnant woman is different from covering for other illnesses (which we all love doing, of course) because pregnancy is a choice.
Is it though?
I haven't seen any stats on this, but I have to wonder how many residency pregnancies are intentional? A resident friend of mine got pregnant while on birth control. Even sterilization isn't 100% and many methods have far less efficacy. And say a resident was just careless and missed their birth control for a night? Does that still make you angry about covering? As angry as it would make you to cover for a resident who chose to go skiing, then broke his leg? If not, why? Both constitute taking risks and having an unexpected outcome.
Isn't a lot of life based on choices? If you choose to live further away from the hospital and then get in a car accident, wasn't it due to your choice? If you stayed up too late and get a bad cold, maybe you shouldn't get coverage then.
But if you break a leg skiing, there's no way to unbreak your leg. Should a resident who gets pregnant by accident have an abortion to avoid inconveniencing others? Does anyone think that?
Of course, it's different with pregnancy because it's a happy event, as opposed to an illness. And it's true, there is certainly usually a happy element to a birth. But for most women, your body feels pretty much wrecked after a birth. After having a major surgery, most people have the luxury of lying in bed and taking care of themselves. After a C-section, you have to spend your recovery caring for a helpless newborn baby. I think what childless men don't realize exactly how women feel physically during that recovery period, no matter what the method of delivery.
I think that men may feel resentful, not because women make the choice to have a baby, but because it's a choice that they simply don't have. Keep in mind guys, that you also don't ever have to do nine months of residency with swollen legs, an aching back, and carrying 30 pounds of baby and fluid around with you everywhere you go... doesn't sound as bad now, does it?
Someone once suggested to me that men should get a 6 week vacation in lieu of a maternity leave. That suggestion is a bit of an insult to the amount of work that a woman must do during a maternity leave. But at the same time, I do think there should be a more lenient policy for taking time off. Most residents will work when they're sick, will work when close family members are ill, etc. Maybe if men felt that they could take time off when they needed it, they wouldn't feel as resentful?
The comment states that "we get pulled off our vacations, electives and otherwise" to cover for maternity leave. Considering you should have like seven months of advance notice, it doesn't seem like anyone should get pulled off anything, unlike when there's an unexpected emergency. Every resident is guaranteed a certain amount of vacation time, no matter what. If pregnant residents aren't letting their programs know early enough about their condition, maybe it's because they're so fearful of the attitudes expressed here.
Finally, the comment states that women should "plan wisely and think about those your decisions might effect [sic]". If that's the case, then when can a working female have a baby without it affecting anyone else they work with? Is it worse during residency, when coverage is spread out over 20+ residents? Or worse later in practice, when there may be only one or two other attendings available to cover? Should a female physician simply never have children out of fear of inconveniencing others?
Some would probably say the answer is yes.