Motherhood and medicine: systematic review of the experiences of mothers who are doctors



Publication Details

Hoffman, R., Mullan, J., Nguyen, M. & Bonney, A. (2020). Motherhood and medicine: systematic review of the experiences of mothers who are doctors. Medical Journal of Australia,


© 2020 AMPCo Pty Ltd Objective: To synthesise what is known about women combining motherhood and a career in medicine by examining the published research into their experiences and perspectives. Study design: We reviewed peer-reviewed articles published or available in English reporting original research into motherhood and medicine and published during 2008–2019. Two researchers screened each abstract and independently reviewed full text articles. Study quality was assessed. Data sources: CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Scopus abstract databases. Data synthesis: The database search identified 4200 articles; after screening and full text assessment, we undertook an integrative review synthesis of the 35 articles that met our inclusion criteria. Conclusions: Three core themes were identified: Motherhood: the impact of being a doctor on raising children; Medicine: the impact of being a mother on a medical career; and Combining motherhood and medicine: strategies and policies. Several structural and attitudinal barriers to women pursuing both medical careers and motherhood were identified. It was often reported that women prioritise career advancement by delaying starting a family, and that female doctors believed that career progression would be slowed by motherhood. Few evaluations of policies for supporting pregnant doctors, providing maternity leave, and assisting their return to work after giving birth have been published. We did not find any relevant studies undertaken in Australia or New Zealand, nor any studies with a focus on community-based medicine or intervention studies. Prospective investigations and rigorous evaluations of policies and support mechanisms in different medical specialties would be appropriate. Protocol registration: PROSPERO CRD42019116228.

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