Be forewarned that you will need a lot of energy to attempt pregnancy and a maternity leave during residency! If you are even considering it, then be sure to seek out other residents with children during your residency program interviews. Ask current residents about support from the residency administration and about the logistics of maternity leave from that specific program. Because of the heavy clinical demands of most residency programs, a maternity leave can be logistically complicated for both you as a resident and the program. Depending on the specialty, residency programs have anywhere from four to twenty trainees in each class. Depending on the size of the program, even one resident out on leave can have a direct, negative impact on the workload of the other residents. One simple way to gauge the general level of support among the residents themselves at specific programs is to talk frankly with as many of them as possible about how they were affected by their colleagues’ maternity leaves.
Maternity leave policies vary somewhat among residency programs but are ultimately constrained by residency training regulations dictated by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and by each specialty board. The ACGME specifies the length of residency training required in each medical specialty and the length of permissible interruptions during that training. Residency directors will know the regulations specific for your specialty. Most residents use a combination of vacation and elective time for maternity leave so that they can finish their training without delays. Some programs in specialties like family medicine and pediatrics will allow residents to do electives without any direct patient care requirements such as a breastfeeding elective (with plenty of hands-on clinical experience!) as part of a maternity leave. If you would like more than four to six weeks of maternity leave, you are unlikely to get paid for that additional time and your graduation may be delayed. A delayed residency graduation can affect both your eligibility to apply for fellowships and your eligibility to sit for your specialty board exam the year that you finish.