Maternity Experiences and Perceptions of Emergency Medicine Physicians

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Spartan Med Res J


INTRODUCTION: Postpartum employment has been recognized as a significant obstacle to breastfeeding continuation rates in the general population. Multiple additional factors can influence emergency medicine (EM) physician mothers' ability to continue breastfeeding upon return to work. These include the unpredictable nature of emergency room volumes and acuity, absence of protected lactation time or facilities, and varying levels of support from colleagues. This study investigated a sample of female EM physicians' current perceptions and experiences regarding breastfeeding practices and identified modifiable work-place factors affecting their decision to wean. The authors hypothesized that EM physician mothers would have excellent breastfeeding initiation rates but be largely unable to maintain breastfeeding practices upon returning to work.

METHODS: A 34-item survey questionnaire evaluated demographics, perceptions, and experiences with breastfeeding with a convenience sample of EM attending and resident physicians from two Michigan academic community hospitals.

RESULTS: Thirty-nine surveys were completed, representing a participant response rate of 88.6%. Breastfeeding had been initiated by all respondent mothers, all of whom returned to full-time employment after delivery. Upon return to work, 15 (75%) respondents continued to exclusively breastfeed. The goal of participants was to breastfeed for an average of 7.1 months (± 4.1 months), although the average duration children were exclusively breastfed was 5.8 months (± 4.0 months).

CONCLUSIONS: Based on these results, the reasons for decreased breastfeeding after return to work in an EM residency program setting are multifactorial and include some modifiable interpersonal and institutional influences. These findings support the implementation of work-place strategies and policies to promote successful breastfeeding practices among EM resident and attending physician mothers returning to work.

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