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Polly's Blog - Should pregnancy hold back your dental career?

With a growing female workforce in dentistry, are we really supporting new mothers when they return to work?

"It’s great that I found her, and in return, I always try to commit as much as I can. We found a good balance when I can dedicate time to my kids but also come to work and not be worried about what’s happening with the children"

Empowering our workforce is easy when everything is going smoothly, but it becomes so important when an employee’s life completely changes. Nothing can turn your life around as much as starting (or growing) a family. It’s an exciting chapter in anybody’s life. But it also comes with concerns over the future of your career and even in some cases over the security of your job.

At Treetops Dental Surgery, we take a completely open and supportive approach. There are numerous things to worry about when pregnant, and so the security of your job shouldn’t be something else to add to that burden.

As a mother myself, I know all too well the importance of having the right work-life balance. And so I like to have a two-way conversation and ensure we support our staff, and in return, they often stay with the practice years after their family have grown up.

Sindy Castro is a dentist at our practice in Wolverhampton. She recently came back from maternity leave and so we took the opportunity to speak to her about her experiences and how they compare with the wider profession.

Please can you introduce yourself?

My name is Sindy Castro, I’m a general dentist and I have a special interest in restorative dentistry. I’ve completed a certificate in restorative dentistry at UCL Eastman in London.

From a professional perspective, when you found out you were pregnant, what were your initial thoughts running through your head?

It is a little bit daunting. During pregnancy, not so much, I didn’t think about it then.

But when I was on maternity leave I was thinking: ‘What am I going to do now?’ Who is going to look after the little one, especially when there was no family around that can help out?

It was certainly challenging trying to find the balance when discussing how many days to come back, could I come back. So many colleagues were asking whether it was time to take a break from dentistry.

I was very grateful and lucky to find Treetops and Polly. They’re all so understanding and flexible with the hours and the days. We’ve managed to find a good balance.

Were you working at Treetops before you were pregnant?

I started about a year before I was pregnant. I was doing four days and then after giving birth, we reduced it to three days.

That was a lot easier to look after the little ones.

How was having that conversation about work-life balance with Treetops and Polly?

"It was a very easy conversation from my side of things. I was worried initially because I hadn't been with Treetops for long, so it was a little bit daunting. Would they understand, would they find somebody else that can do full-time?"

"But Polly was great at supporting me. As soon as I told her, she was very understanding. Particularly with appointments that we had to attend at the hospital. She offered flexibility to accommodate times. But coming back, I couldn't have found a better place."

"She has been very understanding and flexible in the hours. Very accommodating with the short notice that I may have to give due to childcare. And well she's also being very understanding in that she's a mother herself."

"It’s great that I found her, and in return, I always try to commit as much as I can. We found a good balance when I can dedicate time to my kids but also come to work and not be worried about what’s happening with the children."

"Now we have a good balance it’s possible to work on both sides – the family life and continue with my career."

Is this the experience other colleagues are going through in other dental practices?

"It's very sad actually. There are some online groups with mums that work in dentistry, there are lots of blogs. It's very sad to see so many stories where women are not understood. In this period that it's quite challenging for everybody. Not just for the mothers."

"It's hard to hear so many stories where women have had to leave dentistry or pause their careers for a few years until their kids go to school just because the practice flexibility is not there. I feel very lucky not to have had that experience."

What more do you think needs to be done within dentistry to help support future parents?

"I think there needs to be more understanding that some times and days, parents need a little more flexibility. It’s a key thing for us. Sometimes it’s as easy as just understanding that someone that has been on maternity and is coming back to work, won't be exactly the same as when they left. They don't have the same availability."

"But we also shouldn’t condemn them and say if you’re not coming back full time, you’re not coming back. It's all about finding that flexibility, especially during the first year of coming back to work, which is the hardest part. After that, it gets a little easier."

Are dentists pressured to come back a certain number of hours/days?

"Yes certainly. The pressure is there to come back a set number of days or hours. And at the other end, they’re only offered whatever is left at the practice."

"It's not the flexibility where you might work together to make it work for both parties.

In my case, it was a two-way conversation. What days are you available and what days can I offer? We found a little bit of a compromise on both sides to make it work. And it has been working so far, perfectly."

Do you feel empowered to have another child following your experience?

"I don't feel any pressure following what has happened to me and therefore I wouldn't feel any pressure if I were to get pregnant again. I wouldn't feel scared to have a conversation with Polly because of how open she’s been with everything."

"In the wider profession, certainly, I can understand feeling that fear over whether they’ll let me go again. But with Polly, she's been so good that I don't think I have to worry about it. In general, there will always be a fear. If I was in a different practice, that would always be the first thing that I think about before planning a family. Could I continue with my career?"

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