Fellowship is another time during medical training when many women choose to have a child. Like residency, fellowship is typically quite busy with significant educational, clinical, and research responsibilities packed into a one-, two-, or three-year window. Many programs include substantial night and weekend responsibilities. Most fellowships are affiliated with a single employer such as a hospital, a university, or a clinical practice. It is the employer that determines maternity leave benefits for all of its employees including fellows. Fellowship directors are a critical source of information on this subject.
As with residency, any kind of leave during fellowship can have a negative impact on both your career and the program. An unstructured academic fellowship may be a wonderful time to have a child primarily both because of the flexibility of your day-to-day schedule and minimal clinical coverage needs for the program. However, a maternity leave during a procedure-oriented clinical fellowship which may have specific graduation requirements of training for a certain number of uninterrupted months or a threshold number of documented procedures can easily prolong your training. A clinical fellowship with significant overnight call responsibilities may not work very well for the program since the hospital will have to find coverage for you during your leave. Since most fellowships have one or only a few fellows each year, coverage must come from outside the program, usually from the faculty.
Some fellowships exist in conjunction with masters programs (MBA, MPH, MEd, MSc, etc.). Universities have their own sets of rules and regulations regarding maternity leave. If your fellowship occurs in conjunction with an advanced degree, you can contact the university to request a copy of the maternity and/or sick leave policy as well as expected time frames in which to complete the degree. It is reasonable to inquire specifically about each these issues during the fellowship interview process.