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to start a PhD pregnant?

(28 Posts)
PregnantPhD Thu 17-Aug-17 09:09:23

I accepted a fully funded PhD a few weeks back to start in Oct 2017. However I've just found out I'm pregnant. Totally unplanned and unexpected to be completely honest. But I know I could never have an abortion and though timing is not ideal, DP and I are excited nonetheless. WIBU to start my PhD knowing full well I'll need to go off on maternity in several months? Will my head even be in it when DC comes along? If I do start, how early do I need to tell my supervisor?

Leatherboundanddown Thu 17-Aug-17 09:12:07

Hmmm I know lots of people who have taken mat leave during PhD, when are you due?

OwlinaTree Thu 17-Aug-17 09:15:37

It depends on the funding situation. I know a relative of mine has a place on a funded PhD and they won't let her defer it to take some mat leave. She's having to start in Oct while caring for her toddler and 4 month old. I assume this is because as it's funded, the funders want the results ASAP.

OwlinaTree Thu 17-Aug-17 09:16:11

She could defer it but wouldn't get the money.

Bluebelltulip Thu 17-Aug-17 09:21:34

I'm currently on maternity leave from my PhD so can't comment on how it will be when I go back and I only have 9 months funding left when I do. It is not uncommon for people to have babies at this level of education. Research councils have quite good maternity policies.
PP they may not have been able to defer as they hadn't started the PhD when she had her baby.

OwlinaTree Thu 17-Aug-17 09:30:06

I'm definitely not an expert in this area, as only have this second hand from a relative.

MaverickSnoopy Thu 17-Aug-17 09:57:50

I used to work in University HR and helped a colleague understand the rules for his partner who was doing a PhD. I don't know if the rules are the same across all universities but in the one I worked in, if you had started your PhD then you could take a year's maternity leave. However you are not entitled by law to smp or ma as you are not employed on a contract of employment. You also would not be entitled to shared parental leave. Funders of course have their own rules so if you are on a funded course then look on their website as it will be detailed on there. In the case I dealt with funded ceased for the duration of the leave and resumed when she returned to work. It was effectively like she had paused her PhD. Congratulations on your pregnancy and I hope you find a solution that works for you.

MaverickSnoopy Thu 17-Aug-17 10:00:31

I should add, as far as I am aware there are no rules as such as to when you should tell your supervisor. Check this applies at your university. In your shoes i would wait until January, depending on how far along you are. This gives you time to embed into the course and show your worth. It also gives you time you enjoy the Christmas break without having to think about plans that may have to be put in place.

Feel free to pm me if you need any help.

SophieLily27 Thu 17-Aug-17 10:04:31

It may depend on the funding and the type of work you will be doing as part of your PhD, if you are going to be in a lab with lots of chemicals etc...
Best arrange an appointment with your supervisor and have a chat and see what the best plan could be.

Lules Thu 17-Aug-17 10:12:50

As PP have said, funders should have a policy so look it up. Mine gave equivalent of SMP I think and up to a year off (I didn't actually need it as it took longer to get pregnant than I hoped). Lots of people have babies and take ML during their PhD.

I would speak to your supervisor when you start so you can plan your work.

PregnantPhD Thu 17-Aug-17 10:22:45

Thank you all. I think I'm due around April time. My RC (EPSRC) has a good maternity policy; 6 months paid followed by an optional 6 months unpaid. But would I then have an extension to my submission date? It's a 4 year PhD and submission has to be by 30/09/2021. But would I be entitled to an extension if I took 6-12 months off for baby? I think that would be my biggest worry really.

PregnantPhD Thu 17-Aug-17 10:24:18

Sophie thankfully I'm not around chemicals or anything like that and the type of PhD I've gone for would mean I could pretty much work up until I give birth (barring any pregnancy complications of course).

Bluebelltulip Thu 17-Aug-17 10:25:13

I'm epsrc and my hand in date has been extended

BlueGoats Thu 17-Aug-17 10:32:26

I don't know know much about the admin side of this (though I do know someone who took time off from their PhD to have a baby), but if your subject is lab-based, you may need to check if there are any issues/recommendations with handling certain chemicals during pregnancy.

PerpetualStudent Thu 17-Aug-17 10:36:43

I'm ESRC-funded and about to go on my second period of maternity leave from my PhD! From my experience, yes, your submission date will be pushed back accordingly. I was originally supposed to submit in Sept 2016 - with mat leaves, swapping to PT and a few other things submission date is now April 2018!

At my uni you make a simultanious application for maternity leave to the RC, and for 'temporary withdrawal for maternity leave' to the graduate office. So you're offically off the clock. Though in my case I keep my uni email and library access etc. I even presented at a conference during my last mat leave!

Have you thought about what you will do after returning from leave? Swapping to part time was a godsend for me (though does make the whole process drag on a bit!)

Personally I think having babies during the PhD can be a canny move - if you're thinking of an academic career then you're likely looking at a lot of short term post doc and teaching positions after the PhD, where maternity packages and flexibility are rare. Whereas if you're lucky enough to have RC funding you can take fully-paid (inasmuch as you can call a PhD stipend fullsome in any sense!) 6 month chunks off, and up to a year if you want.

PerpetualStudent Thu 17-Aug-17 10:39:54

Just thought, in your case there might be added complications in terms of dipping in and out of any first year research methods courses, I'd check in with your supervisor and funders. Do you have a doctoral training school - DTC - for your research council at your uni? My DTC staff have been amazing at talking me through my options

MerlinsBeard87 Thu 17-Aug-17 11:10:46

I had my ds1 in the middle of my PhD. My funding was from the university so there was no paid maternity leave for me. I chose to suspend my studies for 4 months then cracked on and worked when he was napping. Just yesterday I re-submitted my thesis with the corrections I had been given in my viva. It definitely got harder to work as he became a toddler and the last few weeks have been tough getting finished as he is ready to drop his day time nap and I've been battling to get him to sleep. Poor boy has been on a rigid routine with me the last 2 years as I've needed him to have long set nap times!

I'm now 33 weeks pregnant with ds2 so fingers crossed my corrections are passed off and it's all over. Then this baby can have my full attention and I'll definitely try a more relaxed approach this time.

I'm not gonna lie, it's tough working a PhD around a family, especially as you will only be at the start of your course rather than in the middle like I was. A good sleeping baby helps, but not all of them do! I always felt pulled in 2 and guilty I had to focus on PhD and not family sometimes.

I don't regret it though, you can't put your life on hold. I'm so glad I finished it and didn't give up as it will help my family in the long term, and I've already had a great job offer.

My supervisors were so supportive as they had babies themselves at different stages. So tell them early and they should support you and find out what help you may be entitled to.

Areyoufree Thu 17-Aug-17 11:28:51

Another EPSRC funded PhD here - had two babies during mine. Each one I got 6 months paid, and the time was added on to the end. Worked really well for me. I was lucky to have really supportive supervisors - some academics can be dicks about students/post docs needing flexibility due to young children. Having a baby during a PhD is a perfectly normal, acceptable thing to do. Congratulations!

PregnantPhD Thu 17-Aug-17 13:14:44

Thank you all for your help and support. How do I find out if they have a DTC? I've no idea if they do or not. I haven't given much thought about what to do after maternity leave.

Aurao Thu 17-Aug-17 13:27:12

"But would I then have an extension to my submission date?"

Yes, you take an suspension of studies for the duration of your maternity leave and that extends the deadline.

You need to speak to your supervisor for lab conditions - and possibly see Occupational Health as well. You also need to think about MPhil to PhD transfer - when will the timings fit with your maternity leave?


Aurao Thu 17-Aug-17 13:28:38

"She's having to start in Oct while caring for her toddler and 4 month old. I assume this is because as it's funded, the funders want the results ASAP."

No, it's because she had the baby prior to the October start date - why doesn't she just suspend studies on no pay until she's ready to start?

LEMtheoriginal Thu 17-Aug-17 13:33:30

I got pregnant in my final year and had a bereavement. I think my extension went over a year but I can't remember. My head and heart wasn't in it and I think I ended up writing my entire thesis is 10 months. I just don't remember. Without the other complications it would have been ok but it took it's toll on my mental health.

LEMtheoriginal Thu 17-Aug-17 13:34:27

10 weeks not ten months

PregnantPhD Thu 17-Aug-17 15:08:07

I really don't think occupational health / considering lab conditions etc are required. I'm working on a solely computer based project so I guess it'd be similar to working in an office whilst pregnant.

LEM I'm sorry to hear you had such a difficult time of it.

I agree with aurao if you have the baby before starting you wouldn't then qualify for maternity - which would be similar to starting a job with a few month old baby, you wouldn't then get maternity pay.

Aurao Thu 17-Aug-17 15:28:03


It's worth double checking the OH side of things, particularly for later pregnancy when it may be advisable you have a different desk chair etc. They were super friendly with me.

Also, just a thought, but if you have uni childcare and plan to use it (ours is subsidised) then the waiting lists are often one year plus - you may want to contact them now to get your name down.

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