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Taking a year off of medical school to have a kid?

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  • Taking a year off of medical school to have a kid?

    Hello, I am a medical student currently in my preclinical years, deliberating on the best time to start a family. I am interested in hearing your thoughts from a financial and lifestyle perspective. My husband and I would eventually like to have 2 kids.
    Here are the options I am considering:

    1. Take a year off of school (between 3rd and 4th year) to pursue an MPH (no tuition cost).
    Pros: potentially more time to spend with new baby during less rigorous curriculum, "free" degree, aging family may not be in my child's life if I wait until after residency. Potentially avoids bias/ disadvantages of being pregnant during residency interviews or during residency.
    Cons: delay of graduation by one year, and delay of future earnings, will still be in substantial debt with only my husband's income ($50,000/year)
    If we went with this option, the plan would be to have my husband switch to part time and and provide child care with the support of family for my 4th year, then I would take over as the primary earner in residency.

    2. Take no time off and have a child at the end of 4th year of medical school.
    pros: no delay in graduation, have some time off during last few months of 4th year.
    Cons: pregnant during interviews, new baby during start of intern year.

    I could also potentially have a child during residency or early in my practice. For now I am mainly curious if it would be feasible to have a kid during medical school and if it makes sense to delay graduation. All advice welcome, thank you!
    Last edited by Stumednt; 01-16-2021, 03:56 PM.

  • #2
    I had a baby at the end of 3rd year and took a full year off from medical school. It was very difficult to get the school to agree to this but thankfully another woman in the year below me was pregnant at the same time and also wanted to take a year off so together we were able to get the school to write a policy that any student in good standing could take up to a year off after having a child. This was 2007 btw. I was warned it would affect my ability to match but I figured it would just help me weed out programs I wouldn't want to go to anyway, if they felt it was a negative. Also, I got interviews at every single place I applied and got my first choice so . . .whatever. My timing ended up being perfect because a hurricane hit our city a few months after I had my son. We had to evacuate, we weren't allowed back for months, our home and medical school were seriously damaged. My classmates had to find rotations all over the country, wherever they could. It was madness. There would have been no way I could have finished that year had I not taken it off as my husband had to go back to work after 2 months. Anyhow, everything was mostly back to normal when I started my 4th year. I had a friend who was a sahm with 2 kids, her husband was also a med student, watch my son during 4th year. I know I didn't pay her what she deserved but it was extra money for them and what we could afford.

    I am not going to lie, residency with a small child was hard. I struggled being away from him so much. But we had a wonderful Montessori school for daycare and we survived. We paid off most of my student loans during residency ( and finished them off within 6 months of finishing).

    I personally couldn't have had a kid during residency but I've had friends who do it and manage fine.. We had our second 8 years later, after I was an attending for 2 years. I was 0.75 fte prior to pregnancy. I did a 3 month paid maternity leave and then went to 0.25 fte for 9 months. Then I did 0.5fte for another year and a half or so. We have a nanny for the second kiddo.

    Financially we are good. We have made it a priority for me to spend more time at home and live within our means. So you can make it work no matter when you have a baby. I will say it was easier with the second than the first but I don't regret having my son in medical school and I love the age gap.

    Good luck figuring it out for your family, let me know if you have any questions.

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    • #3
      It's hard to have a kid at any time but I would imagine the hardest time is during internship. So I vote for option 1. However, even if you had your baby during internship, you will fit your life around baby and do fine.

      Another point for consideration. Babies don't come as planned. It may take 6 months, 9 months from the time you start trying to being pregnant.

      My story: Had my first during the fourth year of med school. At that time, hubby was in residency, making about $24,000/yr. Stretched fourth year into two years, 3 months on, 3 months off. I moved to another city to be closer for family after baby was born. Luckily, the new city had a medical school there and my dean wrote a letter to the dean of the other med school to have me do my remaining rotations away there. Had 3 months maternity leave then put baby in daycare when baby was 3 months old. Did hard core rotations to impress program at new city because I wanted to do residency there. Lost milk supply when baby was 6 months old because I never had time to pump during those rotations. Thank goodness for formula. Graduated with the next year's class which was a bummer but was pleasantly surprised to see many familiar faces at graduation--turned out many classmates from my year also delayed graduation for various reasons.

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      • #4
        not a woman here but was with my now-wife all during college and med school and residency. On the one hand, god bless the people who have kids in med school or residency. Added stress to an already stressful time! On the other hand, know the trade-offs, which is you will likely very much miss out on those first few years of your child's life. I realize time is against women but my wife and I waited until she was an attending, and didn't give birth until she had been an attending for over a year. Of course, residency was relatively short (3 years).

        You need to balance this all. Others should chime in but I don't like either option for you. Us waiting until after residency was the best choice for us, and I think is probably the best choice for those who want to be there for their children as much as possible. We have three kids, btw. All after residency. What's your student loan situation?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by juststarting View Post
          Another point for consideration. Babies don't come as planned. It may take 6 months, 9 months from the time you start trying to being pregnant.
          +1000

          Or years and multiple IVF cycles. I was rather shocked to learn how many physicians and physician couples go through this difficult and costly process.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Codfish View Post

            +1000

            Or years and multiple IVF cycles. I was rather shocked to learn how many physicians and physician couples go through this difficult and costly process.
            Agreed and another reason to have kids earlier rather than later. I had a miscarriage the year before I had my second and overall it was definitely easier to get pregnant/be pregnant when I was 26 vs 33. Of my friends who waited until they were attendings to have kids, I'd say half went through infertility treatment. Anecdotal of course but we know fertility declines over time so it's probably pretty typical.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by JBME View Post
              What's your student loan situation?
              I'm looking at $250,000-300,000 in debt by graduation due to high cost of living area. I suppose one thing that appeals to me about having kids during my education is that I can fully launch my career and tackle the debt without having to plan maternity leave or part time work for the first few years after I finish residency, since at that point I will be the primary breadwinner.

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              • #8
                My wife had the best deal, finish fellowship, get paid an academic attending salary during maternity leave right after she had a baby. If you are looking for a financial decision (as you are posting in a financial forum), the most profitable time to have a baby would be during paid maternity leave as an attending. Most places have rules where you have to work 1-2 years before you get the benefit though. Obviously, any delay to your attending years will cost you whatever you would have made as an attending as you have a finite years to work. Anyways, you should do whatever you think is best for your family. Kids are more important then salary considerations.

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                • #9
                  I think you should be able to have kids whenever you want them.... however, I waited to get pregnant mid way through my chief year of residency, joined my new practice 20 weeks pregnant with twins (of course that would happen to an OB!). I ALWAYS thought I would work full time (heck, I went to school for SO LONG for this job!) but ended up going back part time and staying part time until they were in school and I could do most of my clinical work during school hours and email-type work after I pick them up from bus/school.
                  From a financial standpoint, likely better to do in school or residency. Most places do not have maternity leave.... so you are taking a big cut when off to have kiddos. However, I was so thankful to have the option to stay part time (mainly because I was so exhausted breastfeeding every 3 hours that I could not have also worked full time).
                  Do you actually want an MPH? What would you do with it? Usually those degrees make you LESS money, not more.
                  I would not do the year of MPH unless it was super important to you. I agree that you never know when you will have one! We started trying in 2nd year and then took a break for a bit and then restarted trying in 4th year. You just never know.

                  Good luck with whatever you decide.
                  BTW, I stayed part time for about 8 years, we didn't make a ton (between my husband and I... in the beginning it was less than $200 and not much above that for 7-8 years).... we are now worth plenty after 16 years. You will be fine.

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                  • #10
                    There is no perfect time to have a kid.

                    ​​​​​​​We had a kid in residency, as did many female co-residents. It was tough, but worth it.

                    Don't spend too long waiting for a 'better' time. The best time is when you and your partner are ready to be parents. You gotta live your life and trust the details will work out. We ultimately have no regrets and are adding kid #3 in 10 weeks.

                    ​​​

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Stumednt View Post
                      I'm looking at $250,000-300,000 in debt by graduation due to high cost of living area. I suppose one thing that appeals to me about having kids during my education is that I can fully launch my career and tackle the debt without having to plan maternity leave or part time work for the first few years after I finish residency, since at that point I will be the primary breadwinner.
                      One thing I will say is that I didn't know I'd want to be home so much with my kids. I certainly wasn't planning to take so much time off, work part time for so long, etc. It honestly wasn't until I got pregnant that I realized what I wanted. Which sounds stupid but that was my experience. It also surprised me how hard it was to have a baby. I was like, I've watched 13 yo girls have babies, I'm smart, I'm in medical school, how hard can it be? Let me tell you the sleep deprivation was no joke. Among other things. Anyway this is all just to say that you plan everything out, you think you know what it'll be like . . . And life and kids have a totally different agenda. Just realize you aren't in control of many things and be willing to be flexible and you'll figure it out.

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                      • #12
                        My concern is with that student loan situation if you have a child and then realize you want to spend more time at home, you can’t because of those payments

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SLC OB View Post
                          Do you actually want an MPH? What would you do with it? Usually those degrees make you LESS money, not more.
                          I would not do the year of MPH unless it was super important to you.
                          Thank you for your response! I have heard this feedback about MPH programs, that as an MD you can pursue most careers related to public health and policy making without an MPH. While I don't ultimately know what I want to specialize in (and will remain open-minded throughout my clerkships), I do have a passion for primary care as well as community based research. I would consider the MPH as an opportunity to further my education and make "productive" use of a year while also using the opportunity to take some time off from rotations to have a baby. That's all to say, I do not think I would pursue the MPH if I were not planning on having a kid at the same time because it would delay graduation and I would most likely be able to pursue the community focused opportunities I am interested in without the degree.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JBME View Post
                            My concern is with that student loan situation if you have a child and then realize you want to spend more time at home, you can’t because of those payments
                            Thank you for all of your feedback! This is definitely something I go back and forth about. I want to aim for the Dave Ramsey/ WCI approach of living like a resident and paying down the loans as soon as possible after residency, which I assume would take at least 2-4 years in ideal conditions. I suppose actually paying off the loans feels so far off in the future that I didn't picture it possible to entirely pay off my loans before starting a family. That is a really helpful perspective though, the closer I am to paying off my loans, the more flexibility I will have in deciding how much I want to work when starting a family.

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                            • #15
                              There's no planning when it comes to kids. Having said that I'd go #2. MPH probably isn't worth it. Neither is delaying graduation or attendinghood. Not matching/graduating with your class can be bummer. And what if it takes you longer to get pregnant anyway? Depending on how your school is, 2nd half of 4th year is probably best time to have a kid. Interviews are done, you're on cruise control, etc. Then intern year is a bad time but anytime after that you just figure it out, many people do.

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