Guido I. Guberman is a fifth-year MD-PhD candidate at McGill University. He is pursuing his PhD in neuroscience at the Integrated Program in Neuroscience. His research focuses on combining novel brain imaging techniques with multivariate statistical analyses to improve diagnostic and prognostic criteria of pediatric concussions.
The MD-PhD program provides dedicated training time in both medicine and research. Training in one discipline almost inevitably comes at the expense of the other. The long period of training, the daunting demands and expectations, and the high degree of stress are often a deterrent for anyone interested in starting a family. The purpose of this chapter is to dispel that fear and discuss how the MD-PhD path can be compatible with family life. This chapter will outline the challenges and advantages of starting your family during your studies. It will conclude with tips for leading a satisfying career and family life. This chapter is limited by my perspective as a man.
General Challenges to Starting a Family
There are different ways to start a family, which are reflective of different demographic realities. In addition to the approach of naturally conceiving a child with a partner, other ways of starting a family include entering a relationship with a person who has a child, adoption, surrogacy, or conception through the use of assisted reproductive technology. Each of these scenarios presents its own challenges, which are far too complex and varied to address in a single chapter. This chapter, which is written from my perspective as a heterosexual cis-gendered male in a relationship with a heterosexual cis-gendered female, presents the challenges associated with having a first child through natural conception. Its scope is therefore limited.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Starting a family during the MD-PhD program is possible.
It requires being aware of the compromises at each stage.
How supportive a program is for starting a family should be factored in when choosing a school.
Take time off, take care of your mental health, and develop a work ethic based on efficiency.
Build a support network, and devote time to your relationship with your partner.
The challenges of starting a family begin in pregnancy. Your partner will start experiencing bodily changes, and research suggests that as a partner, your social and emotional support is beneficial to the mental health of the mother and child. There are different ways of offering support, for instance, by attending all prenatal doctor’s appointments, assisting your partner during prenatal classes, and assuming a larger proportion of the household chores. Having a child requires logistical preparation (such as preparing a nursery and making the house childproof). The birth of the baby is also a hectic period. For a vaginal delivery without complications, the length of your partner’s hospitalization will be around 48 hours, a period that ...