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Medical student experiences motherhood and postnatal depression before graduation

Tuesday 15 December 2020 3:44pm

Rebecca Pascoe and fam image
Dr Rebecca Pascoe with her daughter Georgia (left) and partner Adam.

When Rebecca Pascoe graduated from medical school last weekend there was an unanticipated but much appreciated person in attendance.

Dr Pascoe gave birth to baby Georgia, 1, just two weeks after sitting her major fifth year medical exams. She fell unexpectedly pregnant with Georgia early in her penultimate year of medical school.

After giving birth to Georgia, Dr Pascoe experienced postnatal depression, and spent the last year of training battling baby blues while expressing breast milk and doing full-time clinical duties.

She says the experience gave her a greater appreciation of mental health issues and the difficulties of working parents.

“Being pregnant during medical school was not part of the plan. Adam (her partner) and I were open to the idea of having children but never expected it would happen so quickly,’’ she says.

“We talked about how I was interested in studying medicine but was told I was not smart enough to get into medical school. At that stage I was 30-years-old and thought I was also too old to start again."

“Georgia changed my plans for my sixth year elective, which is typically done overseas or in a different environment. I spent it looking after a newborn then heading back to the hospital and doing clinical rounds when she was three-months-old .”

The final two years of Dr Pascoe’s medical degree were more difficult than she expected. But her journey there also had its challenges.

As a young girl Dr Pascoe always wanted to be a doctor. But several adults told her she wasn’t ‘smart enough’ or focused enough on studying to get into medical school.

She says she believed what they said and trained as a nurse instead.

A decade into her career Dr Pascoe began working with University of Otago, Christchurch bowel cancer expert and researcher Professor Frank Frizelle.

“We talked about how I was interested in studying medicine but was told I was not smart enough to get into medical school. At that stage I was 30-years-old and thought I was also too old to start again.

"Frank said neither of those things were true and encouraged me to go for it. In 2014 I applied for medical school and after being interviewed by a panel of professors was accepted under the ‘other pathway’ because of my nursing experience and the master’s degree.”

After graduating Dr Pascoe and her family will move to Whakatane where she has a job at the local hospital and her partner has family.