WIC Council Perspective Looks at Pregnancy and Early Parenthood as a Cardiologist

A majority of female cardiologists become pregnant during their careers, however, many face a number of challenges, some starting even before conception and continuing after their children are born, according to a Council Perspective from ACC’s Women in Cardiology (WIC) Section published Jan. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The experience of pregnancy among cardiologists has never been investigated, though it is speculated that concerns surrounding pregnancy may deter women from choosing a career in cardiology,” said author Amy Sarma, MD, MHS, et al. To learn more, the College’s WIC Section conducted a voluntary anonymous survey of female cardiologists regarding their experiences with pregnancy, parenting and family planning.

The majority of the 501 respondents (76 percent) reported that they experienced at least one pregnancy; among the 24 percent who had never been pregnant, 45 percent said they hoped to become pregnant in the future. Most pregnancies occur during cardiology fellowship (49 percent) or early career (63 percent), with 22 percent occurring during medical residency. “Women are concurrently trying to establish their careers while growing their families, leading to a rational interplay between family planning and career factors,” noted the authors. Markedly, nearly half (43 percent) reported being asked in interviews whether they intended to have children.

Predictably, only 10 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “my career did not influence my family planning.” The remaining women identified with time constraints (60 percent), work/life balance (74 percent), pregnancy outcomes with respect to work hours (29 percent) and pregnancy outcomes with respect to occupational exposure (46 percent). “Strategies to improve the experience of pregnancy among female cardiologists are likely to improve the experience of the majority of women in cardiology and in doing so, hopefully attract more women to the field,” asserted the authors.

While nearly half of female cardiologists reported that they tried to avoid pregnancy during periods when they would be exposed to radiation, 57 percent said they had experienced pregnancy exposure. The WIC pregnancy workforce group “suggests that all cardiologists receive education regarding pregnancy radiation exposure upon entering fellowship” and at succeeding career stages.

Overall, the report’s authors offer several recommendations for creating a more equitable and supportive environment for pregnant cardiologists and cardiologists with children at home. “Given that the majority of female cardiologists are pregnant at some point in their careers – particularly during the vulnerable periods of training and early career – improving the experience of pregnancy and early parenthood for all cardiologists may secure the best possible candidates to the field of cardiology.”


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