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Married to Medical School: The Concessions Women Make

I do not doubt that I have the intelligence, care, compassion, and capability to become a doctor. I do doubt that I can navigate through medical school and graduate feeling fulfilled.

 

As traditional systems of fire and pain, medical schools scald and pulverize their students. They rake in hopes and dish back ashes. You give them everything. They ask for more. You try to work within the system. It burns you. Hordes of medical students endure strenuous conditions every year, and a throng drop out. Straining the mind, spraining the body, demanding total devotion, and draining the pocket book only scratch the surface of what medical schools entail. Medical schools make life more complicated, more stressful; they restrict social life, compromise wellness, and limit personal options. But most appalling, they hinder women’s ability to endure and flourish when growing families come into play.

I am currently a pre-med student, dreaming of becoming a doctor. I am also a woman, dreaming of becoming a mother. I would like to have my children before my age could compromise conception or health of my children. I fear that current medical school systems do not support or realistically allow my desires, especially if I hope to specialize. Even with taking a year between undergraduate and graduate school, I can still graduate basic medical school by the time I am 27. Depending on the field I am most interested in, I may need to tack on another four years of residency. That puts me at age 31.

It is becoming increasingly common for women to begin having children in their 30s and even 40s. Most think it is harmless. However, between the age of 25 and 35, probability of conception decreases 50% and women who give birth after the ages of 25-30 have a greater risk of having children with birth defects.[1] The risk of Down syndrome between the ages of 25-29 is 1 out of every 1100 births. By the age of 35, the risk of Down syndrome increases to 1 out of every 350 births.[2] My chances, as a healthy adult, of conceiving healthy children after age 35 are reasonably good, but I personally don’t want to take the chances. I have always wanted to have four children. Unless I plan to be pregnant for four consecutive years between ages 31-35 (a decision that also carries severe health risks for my own body and sanity), I either have to reduce the number of children I hope to have, or I have to risk the increasing chances of infertility for myself and birth defects for my children.

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