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The Battle Against Infertility

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

By: Michelle Ren

[Photo Credit: Health]


Whether it's being treated respectfully or having equal standing, it is common knowledge that women in the medical field face numerous challenges. However, one less-known issue that female doctors experience is infertility. Generally, nearly one in four female physicians have been diagnosed with infertility, which is double the rate of the general population. For female surgeons, the rate of pregnancy loss is also more than twice the rate of the general population. Infertility can lead to challenges regarding child bearing, pregnancy loss, and treatment costs. Additionally, feelings of regret surrounding career and family decisions come with this issue, potentially leading to mental health issues in female doctors. As the cherry on top, current stigmas surrounding women in STEM fields prevent female doctors from speaking up about this issue without the fear of judgment. Ultimately, it is clear that actions must be taken to assist female doctors who continue to fight against infertility and stigma.


At first glance, this issue seems to completely stem from the postponement of childbearing. Due to long training periods and financial instability, many female doctors wait until their mid or late thirties to have children. However, a study conducted in Hungary proved that this is merely one factor of infertility in female doctors. Using 3000 female physicians, the study showed that female doctors still had higher rates of infertility compared to women in other professions who had also attempted conception at later ages. Other studies, including a 2014 study in the BMC Women’s Health Journal, showed strong relationships between burnout and reproductive disorders in female doctors as well as other women in highly demanding professions. At the same time, there is a lack of focus on women’s health in the STEM field. Thus, it is evident that there are multiple factors impacting infertility in female doctors. Furthermore, more research is needed regarding this issue so as to support future generations of female doctors.


Furthermore, another way to resolve this issue is through raising awareness. Due to the lack of conversations surrounding this issue, female doctors hardly reach out for assistance. This causes an increased amount of mental health issues in female doctors, further establishing a circulatory causality between excessive stress and reproductive disorders. Thus, it is essential that conversations surrounding egg freezing, fertility treatment, and mental health are allowed to occur without judgement or restrictions. Moreover, protecting young women in medical schools by having conversations with them about the risks of infertility is important as well. While some people might argue that doing so will only drive women away from the medical field, it is still necessary that young women are aware of the risks that come with being a female doctor and thus, are able to make decisions accordingly.


Thus, researching and raising awareness on the infertility risks in female doctors will only benefit them in the long run. As balancing a medical career and motherhood continues to pose challenges, it is essential that these difficulties are met with further investigation and support.



References


[1] Aymes, Shannon. “Work-Life Balance for Physicians: The What, the Why, and the How.” Medical News Today, 22 Sept. 2020, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318087.


[2] Győrffy, Zsuzsa, et al. “Reproductive Health and Burn-out among Female Physicians: Nationwide, Representative Study from Hungary.” BMC Women's Health, vol. 14, no. 121 , 2014, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6874-14-121.


[3] Mateo, Ashley, and Amanda MacMillan. “15 Causes of Infertility in Women.” Health, 11 May 2016, https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20918587,00.html.


[4] Mroz, Jacqueline. “A Medical Career, at a Cost: Infertility.” The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/health/women-doctors-infertility.html.


[5] Parsons, Melissa. “The Silent Struggle of Female Physicians.” Feminem, 27 Feb. 2019, https://feminem.org/2019/02/27/the-silent-struggle-of-female-physicians/.


[6] Stentz, Natalie Clark, et al. “Fertility and Childbearing Among American Female Physicians.” Journal of Women's Health, vol. 25, no. 10, 1 Oct. 2016, pp. 1059–1065, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2015.5638.




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