Women physicians regret delaying childbearing

Many female physicians say that if they had to do it over again, they might have tried to have children sooner, chosen a different specialty, or elected to have embryos frozen “just in case” they had later fertility problems, an investigator said at the conjoint meeting of the International Federation of Fertility Societies and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

They surveyed a random sample of female physicians in the United States to ask about their choices for timing of conception, their basic knowledge of reproductive limitations, and how reproductive choices factor into their professional and personal decision making. The investigators randomly selected 600 women who graduated from medical school from 1995 through 2000 from the American Medical Association (AMA) physicians’ database, and mailed surveys to them. A total of 333 (55.5%) responded.

Asked whether they would in retrospect have changed anything about their reproductive choices, 27.9% said they would have attempted to conceive earlier, 17.7% would have opted for a different specialty, 7.2% would have used cryopreservation of embryos or oocytes, 5.3% would have started medical training earlier, and 4.3% would have taken a leave from training. Of the 13.1% who said they would have made other, unspecified choices, 3.6% independently reported that they would not have gone into medicine.

If this large proportion of female physicians who presumably understand the effect of age on reproduction are sorry they waited so long, it’s no wonder that so many women delay childbearing without knowing the impact of age on reproduction. We, as doctors, have to do a lot more education to make women aware of the effect of age on their reproductive capabilities and the options available today to preserve their fertility like egg freezing by vitrification.

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