Q: Can Sleep Deprivation Be Harmful For Pregnancy During Medical Residency?

Dear Dr. Park,

I will be starting internship in a few months, and will be doing q4 30 hour call for the entire first year. I am worried about the possible detrimental effects to my health (cardiovascular, metabolic, chronic pro-inflammatory state) from not sleeping AT ALL every 4th night for one year. More importantly, do you know of any studies that have been done with pregnant women and sleep deprivation? If I were to become pregnant sometime during residency, is it dangerous for the baby to be on a 30 hour q4 call cycle? Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated!
D, med student

A:  You bring up an interesting question, in light of the fact that new recommendations were released by the Institute of medicine regarding resident work hours (click here to read.) It sounds like you’ll definitely get more sleep than in years past: One of the recommendations is a 5 hour protected sleep shift during overnight shifts. Gone are the days when residents worked 120 to 140 hours every week. I won’t get into the pros and cons of this debate, but it’s safe to say that any degree of long-term sleep deprivation is not good for anyone, male or female. I’m not aware of any studies of intentional sleep deprivation and pregnancy, for obvious reasons.

Depending on the type of residency, some programs or specialties are more conducive to pregnancies than others. Internship is probably not a good time to have a baby, but in the latter years of residency, many women do go through pregnancies with creative scheduling and cooperation with other residents.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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