May 07, 2024

Choosing Motherhood and Medical School

Munachiso Ngene, MPH, M4, St. Georges University School of Medicine

Completing medical school is a challenging journey, demanding rigorous schedules and unwavering dedication. For many, the pursuit of a medical degree leaves little room for personal endeavors, let alone the complexities of motherhood. However, for those who find themselves taking both paths simultaneously, the journey can be both daunting and immensely rewarding.


Pregnancy during medical school, especially during clinical clerkships, presents its own set of challenges. Some may choose to conceal their pregnancy initially, while others may opt for early disclosure to trusted mentors and advisors. Regardless of the path you choose, initiating communication with your school early on is paramount. Understanding available resources and your school's policies regarding maternity leave is essential. My school was accommodating, allowing adjustments to my clinical schedule to accommodate maternity leave. However, it's important to note that not all medical schools have formal maternity leave policies for students. Hence, fostering open communication with your institution is crucial, especially in the face of complications that may arise during pregnancy.


Whether delivery is planned or spontaneous, maintaining consistent communication with your school is vital for peace of mind. Factor in frequent obstetric visits toward the end of your pregnancy and inform your point of contact at school about your decisions. Planning can alleviate unnecessary stress during this pivotal time.


Once your body heals postpartum, it's time to contemplate your return to school. Don't hesitate to seek help from your support system for childcare and other responsibilities. If you're considering breastfeeding, plan accordingly by identifying necessary supplies and researching lactation facilities at hospitals where you're placed for rotations. The decision to disclose breastfeeding is personal; consider the demands of each rotation when making your choice. Remember, leaning on trusted mentors and advisors can provide invaluable guidance during this transition.

Key Takeaways

Becoming a mother while in medical school is undoubtedly challenging, but it's also incredibly rewarding. With the proper support systems in place and a proactive approach to communication with your school, balancing motherhood and medical school is achievable. Remember, you're not alone on this journey. Seek support, embrace the challenges, and celebrate the victories along the way. In sharing these insights and experiences, I hope to offer reassurance and guidance to fellow medical student mothers embarking on this remarkable journey. Together, we can navigate the complexities of motherhood in medical school and emerge stronger, more resilient and ready to make a difference in the world of healthcare.

To connect with other medical student parents, join the Parenting in Radiology Engage Community. Also, a new video series for medical students, residents and practicing radiologists — ACR Parenting in Radiology — delves into topics such as family planning, challenges with time, balancing responsibilities and more.