Have you ever wondered what is it like to be an interventional cardiologist while Pregnant? According to research one of the most significant barriers for women entering Cardiology is the potential or goal of pregnancy. For young doctors, achieving work-life balance is difficult enough. When women enter the male dominated field of Cardiology, they often worry about leaving behind their dreams of starting a family. However, recent survey has revealed a few surprises.
Statistics Reveal Hidden Pressures
Nearly half of the female cardiologists surveyed said they felt pressured to take a shorter maternity leave. Among cardiology fellows that number grew to 60 percent. Only 46 percent reported that they were able to breastfeed more than six months. The over 500 women polled represented all stages of their careers from training through retirement. Most (76 percent) respondents had at least one pregnancy during their career in cardiology; usually during their fellowship.
Higher Infertility Rates
One interesting finding was that the rate of infertility including the need for assisted reproductive technology (ART) was more prevalent among female cardiologists than the general population, at the rate of 20 percent. This could be explained by factors including delayed pregnancy attempts and higher rates of use of ART procedures.
Workplace Improvement Needed
The research survey, performed by Massachusetts General and the American College of Cardiology WIC Leadership Council, discovered that radiation exposure was the most common worry among women. However, the anonymous survey also found of all women who reported radiation exposure during pregnancy, only:
- 20 percent utilized fetal radiation badges
- 24 percent wore additional lead
- 42 percent took distance measures
- 50 percent didn’t know whether there were radiation exposure policies at their institutions or that there were none in place
The WIC task-force presented their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggest the following workplace improvements:
- Paid leave for both men and women of at least 2 months
- Transparent leave policies included in employment contracts
- Dissemination of information about fetal radiation exposure, exposure reduction and monitoring strategies
- Utilizing radiation safety officers for all fluoroscopy credentialing
- Promotion of cultural acceptance — for pregnancy and breastfeeding
While pregnancy may be more difficult to achieve for women in cardiology, it does seem possible with the right support. As we have reported previously, studies have shown that female cardiologists can be attuned to their patients, can provide more support to women managing heart disease, as well as becoming important advocates in raising awareness of heart disease in women. For all of these reasons, we should continue to encourage entry into this field.