Women who have dedicated their lives to medicine may have an unsettling common denominator. Infertility in women is on the rise.
According to the American Medical Women’s Association, studies show that one in four female doctors struggle with infertility—that’s a whopping 25%.
Infertility is a growing problem. In the general population of the US, 19% of couples spend more than a year trying to get pregnant. For female doctors trying to start their families, the problem seems to be exacerbated.
If you’re a physician interested in learning more about your own fertility, we have resources for you. Learn more about fertility in our four-part blog series on testing for fertility indicators. For women working in higher-risk careers, it’s important to be proactive about fertility.
The exact reason that women in medicine face higher infertility rates is not clear. It’s likely a combination of factors. Below, we’ll outline a few likely culprits.
With each menstrual cycle that passes, the chance of getting pregnant decreases. A woman under the age of thirty has a 25-30% chance of pregnancy for each cycle. By a woman’s 40s, her chances of getting pregnant are reduced to 10% per cycle.
It’s well-known that age plays a role in women's fertility. It’s also common knowledge that it takes several years of education, training, and focus to become a doctor. Many women in medicine choose to delay starting a family during the years before becoming licensed to practice. The average age of a woman giving birth is 27, but for women physicians—it jumps up to 32 years old.
Medical school and residency often take up a dozen or so of a woman’s precious child-bearing years. By the time a woman reaches physician status, she’s likely already in her thirties and her ovarian reserve begins diminishing. We encourage women in medicine to see a fertility specialist. This is especially important for women over 30 who are trying for a baby.
It’s simple to see how it happens. Settling down to start a family often gets put on the back burner while your career launches, and before you know it, you’re nearing forty and still without a child. All this time, you may not have considered that your fertility may be compromised.
Who has time to settle down and find a mate when you’re busy trying to get trained on how to become a doctor? Busy schedules are another common reason that female doctors aren’t having babies as much as their non-physician counterparts. By the time you get back into the dating scene, your fertility has likely already peaked.
Other lifestyle factors that may play a role might include working in high-stress environments (although the relationship between stress and infertility is not well-understood), poor diet, lack of exercise, alcoholism, and more. The answer to the exact cause of the correlation between female physicians and infertility is still being studied.
Recognizing that there is a relationship between career choice and infertility is the first step to being proactive. Women in medicine must be informed that they are embarking on a career choice that could put them at a higher risk of infertility.
Even though women in medicine struggle more than others with infertility, there are proactive steps that can be taken to combat infertility in women.
Below are a few steps you can consider taking now:
If you’re currently struggling to conceive, our online OBGYNs can help with treating infertility.
If you’re a female physician who is concerned about this trend of women's infertility in the profession, My Virtual Physician is in your corner. We’re here to consult with you and provide answers. We can assist with regular fertility testing and our online OBGYNs serve patients in all 50 states.
If you’ve already received a concerning fertility test result, we’re available to consult with you on the best plan of action to move your fertility forward. Online appointments are available now; book your appointment today to meet with our board-certified OBGYNs.