Infertility and Pregnancy Loss in Female Surgeons

Click here to learn about the impact that occupation can have on fertility and pregnancy, as exhibited by a recent study conducted on female surgeons.

Lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking, and occupational hazards can contribute to fertility challenges. While occupational hazards often pertains to exposure to toxic chemicals, other studies highlight challenges related to specific jobs. For example, a 2021 study examined the risk for infertility and pregnancy loss in female surgeons.

Of the 692 female surgeons in the study, 42% reported a pregnancy loss, and 75% took no time off work. In contrast, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that only 10-15% of confirmed pregnancies overall are lost. Some of the factors thought to impact pregnancy in female surgeons include lack of paid leave, later age at pregnancy, and long work hours during pregnancy.

In the same study, half of the women surveyed experienced major pregnancy complications. Those most at risk for complications were those working 12 or more hours a week through their final trimester, showing the impacts of stress, lack of sleep, and decreased access to food and water on pregnancy.

The effects of lifestyle factors are not restricted to women. For example, a study showed that men who experience increased life stress may have poorer semen quality, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.

Working as a surgeon requires grueling hours of very focused work. The 2021 study generally exhibits the tradeoff between occupation and fertility, but more specifically the importance of a culture change to better support female surgeons.