Medical Students’ Perspectives on Pregnant or Parenting Peers: A Cross-Sectional Survey

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Purpose: Limited institutional resources exist for pregnant and parenting medical students; however, students’ opinions regarding pregnancy in medical school have not been reported. The authors assessed medical students’ perspectives regarding pregnant or parenting peers and underlying bias or resource gaps.

Methods: An online, cross-sectional survey was distributed in October 2022 to medical students at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (n = 806) to explore demographics, bias, family planning, and available resources. Descriptive analyses, a two- tailed t-test comparing female and male responses, and a one-way analysis of variance test comparing medical school classes were used.

Results: The survey response rate was 13.2% (n = 106). Few respondents (n = 4, 3.8%) had been pregnant during medical school. The majority (n = 67, 71.3%) indicated family plans influence specialty choice. Furthermore, 78.0% (n = 42) cited career and education as their reason for choosing to delay pregnancy. Other descriptive analyses identified that 80.0% (n = 75) of respondents were not aware of resources available for pregnant or parenting classmates. Also, 13.0% (n = 12) of respondents had witnessed bias toward a pregnant medical student. Differences in opinions between males and females were present regarding bias and support available. Differences between medical student classes also exist regarding opinions indicating pregnancy as a barrier during school. The statements with the strongest overall agreement were: Pregnant medical students are resilient, face additional challenges, and parental leave should be available in medical school.

Conclusion: This study provides new information regarding pregnancy opinions in medical school and highlights pregnant medical students’ challenges and biases. We revealed common delays in pregnancy due to career or educational choices and uncovered the strong consensus among students that parental leave should be an option. Support efforts are warranted to decrease biases and offer parental leave to promote equity and inclusion.