Letters to the Editor
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MY EXPERIENCE AS A PREGNANT MO - A REPLY
I am a ex-GP trainee (I just passed my exam 2 weeks ago). I had 2 babies during my traineeship during which I rotated through 7 departments and I must say that my experience, on the whole was pleasant. Much of this was because I was fortunate enough to have very good timing with my deliveries. I even managed to convince the notoriously difficult Family Medicine committee of the GSMS (Graduate School of Medical Studies) to allow me to take my exam together with the rest of my cohort. Most other MOs with just one pregnancy during the training period were held back by a year.
I was pregnant for the first time during my first posting as a GP trainee while working at Toa Payoh A&E. The first trimester passed by in a haze of nausea throughout the whole day. I never thought to request for no nights, etc. as I wanted to make a good impression and do my share of the work. Actually, I didn’t even think of informing my head of department! Like Fui Lin I found that the meals provided for us were totally repellant but I simply made up for it by drinking lots of milk. It finally culminated in being hospitalised for a week for dengue haemorrhagic fever during my 8th week. I was on MC for another week after that. Then it was immediately on to my next posting in ENT at TPH, so I never found out how the other people in the department actually reacted to my absence.
I think the ENT department was rather apprehensive about getting a pregnant MO that had just been on 2 weeks MC. They were all extremely solicitous, including the clinic assistants. It was the best and most closely knit department I had ever rotated through. Everyone was just like family, from consultant down to clinic assistant and department secretary. We had lunch together everyday. The wonderful head, the late Dr Amar Kaur would monitor my food and drink intake daily to make sure that I was taking care of myself! They told me that I need not go to OT and during nights on call when we had emergency surgery, they told me to go and rest!! However, I was feeling much better during my second trimester and I told them I was determined to be treated no differently from other MOs. In fact I was so determined that they told me I was performing better than their previous ENT trainees! I was trusted to handle major cases on my own and allowed to start and end major surgery in OT.
I was fortunate to have a very smooth pregnancy and I was physically keeping up with everyone else. There was no impact on my performance as an MO. In fact I think the fact that I was pregnant and still doing all the same work made them have an even better impression of me! I think our work attitude counts a lot in how the department treats you. However, the departments’ attitude also counts a lot in lifting our morale and how we cope with our postings.
In my second pregnancy, I rotated through IMH, KK Paediatrics and a polyclinic. I found it sheer torture to do calls in KK during my first trimester – for a maternity hospital, it was hard to believe that there wasn’t a single stall in the canteen selling food suitable for a nauseous pregnant woman! I was also physically very tired and spent every spare moment in the call room either throwing up or trying to rest. The only concession was to request not to rotate through the oncology wards and day treatment centre where I would have to give chemotherapy.
I breathed a sigh of relief once I got to my polyclinic posting, thinking like Fui Lin that it would be good for my pregnancy. Although there were no calls, it is highly stressful as we were working very hard continuously the whole day. Rather surprisingly, I went into preterm labour while there, at 32 weeks. Thankfully, it stopped and I was back to work the next day. I didn’t want to take any MC as GP trainees are only allowed 2 weeks off in any 6-month posting and I was already cutting it close as I would be going on maternity leave. In fact, I dragged myself to work despite bad gastroenteritis, influenza, etc. as I was afraid the GSMS would make me repeat the entire year in order to qualify for the exam. My only concession was to request not to do any Well Woman Clinics as I had difficulty bending over the couch to do Pap smears.
In conclusion, I would like to advise all pregnant MOs to have a positive attitude towards their pregnancy as that really helps you to feel good about everything in general. Because of that, pregnancy wouldn’t exact such a toll on you physically. It may make even the hardest posting livable. Don’t let “pregnant MO” become a derogatory term! On the other hand, don’t be afraid to make requests to make things easier for yourself if you REALLY need it. As long as it doesn’t impose too much on the other members of your team, most departments would be quite amenable to meeting your requests.
DR LIM HUI LING