Female surgeons have been found to have high rates of infertility and pregnancy complications compared to the general population, according to a paper published in JAMA Surgery.
The literature review identified a survey of 1,021 US female surgeons from different specialities who reported an overall pregnancy complication rate of 35.3 per cent and 32 per cent had fertility difficulties compared with 14.5 per cent and 10.9 per cent, respectively, in the general population. While the average age at delivery was 33 in surgeons and 26 in the general population, this is still below the age considered the cutoff for advanced maternal age of 35 years. The extent of the role age plays in complications remains unknown, the authors pointed out.
Operating room reproductive hazards include radiation, surgical smoke, sharps, waste anaesthetic gases, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy and methyl methacrylate. Lengthy work hours, prolonged standing and high physical workload may also contribute to these figures.
The authors said various workplace modifications have shown success in reducing exposure levels for many reproductive hazards, and these should be adopted in surgical workplaces. Controlling exposure rather than restricting surgeons’ activity should be given priority, they said.
The report presents recommendations aimed at reducing exposures without unfair discrimination.