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Getting pregnant during my PhD - is it possible to finish on time?

(29 Posts)
Badger91 Mon 14-Mar-16 18:58:12

I am currently in the 3rd year of my PhD - my funding ends August 2017. I'm getting married in July and hoping to start trying for a baby right away.

IF we are lucky enough to get pregnant quickly, I would be giving birth in fourth year. So I'd be writing up almost full time by the time baby arrives.

How many ladies have had babies in their PhD? Would you recommend it? Did you survive?

Jenijena Mon 14-Mar-16 19:03:05

Don't have a PhD, DO have professional interest in supporting PhD students...

It can be done but do a) check out any maternity leave from your funder and b) suspend your studies for the active bits - if you think you can 'struggle on through' the time most women take maternity leave, and then hit maximum length of candidature without submitting, it can get sticky...

whiteychappers Mon 14-Mar-16 19:42:06

I would say don't assume its that easy to get pregnant when you want to, it will probably take you longer than you think x

Badger91 Mon 14-Mar-16 19:42:29

I will look into maternity leave but I am hoping to submit on time, without any extensions. But you're right, I want to make sure I'm covered just in case.

Arborea Mon 14-Mar-16 19:43:33

Not a PhD, but I wrote my masters dissertation (17,000 words) during my maternity leave. It was hard, and I am glad I don't have it hanging over me this time round!

I had already done some preliminary research, but still found that there was a huge amount to do. It was only really feasible because DC went into nursery a couple of days a week and I wasn't back at work. I wouldn't have been capable of sustained critical thought in the first 6 months post delivery and remember bitterly regretting that I took it easy and didn't push to finish it before I gave birth.

Now it's a distant-ish memory I'm pleased that I carried on and graduated, but I do suspect that it's better not to put yourself through the stress.

Badger91 Mon 14-Mar-16 19:44:48

We have decided that of it looks like it's going to take a long time then we will have to stop and wait until I get another "window" throughout my career.
Trying to stay positive though. Don't want to be on a downer before we even start.

Badger91 Mon 14-Mar-16 19:46:50

Well I would have no research left. If by research we're talking about experimental work. That will be finished before the end of this year. I would be writing my thesis full time.
I understand that it will be a lot of work but it's nice to know it's possible to get through it.

allegretto Mon 14-Mar-16 19:52:03

I had my twins during my PhD ... Which I still haven't finished confused

malvinandhobbes Mon 14-Mar-16 19:53:47

I submitted my PhD dissertation the day after my due date with DS1. (he was a week late) That was actually okay. I worked very hard in those 9 months to finish nearly on time.

I now supervise many Msc and PhD students in a female dominated field. I have dealt with many students who become pregnant, and almost all of them are convinced they can work while on mat leave. None of them were able to do good work while also on leave. You should be able to postpone your funding, but you will need to take a maternity leave and prepare for the fact that severe sleep disruption and dissertation writing are not compatible. Don't plan for mat leave to overlap successfully with dissertation writing. You really just won't care about the dissertation in those first few months and feeing guilty will just make those months stressful.

That said, there is no good time for an academic woman to have a baby, and if you can have your funding postponed (and you should be able to) now may be as good a time as any.

I am an academic and working flat out during pregnancy and keep getting a hard time for "not taking it easy", but I know that in a field like ours my best asset is my thoughtful attention and that will be AWOL for the first few months with a newborn.

Sophia1984 Mon 14-Mar-16 19:55:42

But equally, don't assume you won't get pregnant straight away and plan as if it'll take months, as it can happen (did to me, twice!)

Quodlibet Tue 15-Mar-16 00:12:51

I completed my write-up during pregnancy and then due in part to my supervisor's lazy management, ended up doing my viva when 6 weeks post-partum. NOT FUN when you haven't slept for more than 4 hrs straight for a while. Miraculously, I did well in the viva but it's taken me 2 yrs to find the space in my life to tackle the substantial rewrite that was necessary. I do have other work commitments which have taken precedence. Be warned that working on a PhD once funding has run out and once childcare costs kick in is really tough.

magnificatAnimaMea Tue 15-Mar-16 04:02:36

I used to be in a pastoral role for PhD students, some of whom became pregnant. Most of them were scientists who did 4-year PhDs with 3 years of experimental work and a 4th year of writing. Based on the completion rate of those students, and my own utter disinclination to think straight/ total knackeredness from throwing up a lot while pregnant - and I have never even made it beyond 12 weeks' gestation - I absolutely second the posters above saying don't try to combine writing with a baby. Trying to do work while being pregnant can be awful and that's nothing on having a newborn.

magnificatAnimaMea Tue 15-Mar-16 04:04:27

oh and i have known one person who did a lot of experimental work and wrote up, and did her viva, all while on maternity leave with 2 kids under 3. She's superhuman, and generally keeps up a punishing rate of work achievement, but even she had a breakdown a few years later.

AsthmaWose Tue 15-Mar-16 05:48:22

I got pregnant towards the end of my unfunded 'write up' fourth year. Managed to finish with minor corrections and get through a viva with pretty severe morning sickness.

I know a number of people who have been pregnant much earlier in the phd process, 2nd or 3rd years, and even though it has caused distruption, they have been much better supported.

I personally faced being a qualified phd in late 2015 but with no one wanting to employ me at 4/5 months pregnant. Plus, due to the research councils structure, no kind of maternity leave or pay has been available too. I can't emphasis enough how tough this has been money wise.

Friends who have been pregnant much earlier in the process have managed to go part time, get mat leave and have flexible working arrangements - that is until funding has stopped and childcare has continued. Huge problems then.

I've started to think, there's no good time though with the way academic life is tbh! I wish you luck smile

Megan21xox Tue 15-Mar-16 08:21:15

Hey girls! I'm new and super confused please help if you can !!, yesterday it just randomly dawned on me that I haven't had a period I have never ever missed one in my life, I checked my app and my dates and it turns out I'm 14 days today overdue I took a home test yesterday and I got a negative, we are trying however I have some systis on my ovary I don't feel pregnant then again I haven't been pregnant before lol phoned the doc and he said to try again next week has this ever happened to anyone? And we're you pregnant help please !!! Xx

Badger91 Tue 15-Mar-16 14:23:13

Whether I am still a PhD student or I wait longer,I will have to work throughout my pregnancy. If I were to believe some of these posts, then I would say it is impossible to have a child. At any point in my career. Unless I'm willing to give up work before I even start trying for a baby. Which I can't and won't do.
Very disappointed.

NightLark Tue 15-Mar-16 14:48:11

I was pregnant for my viva (though very very early in pregnancy), and now work as an academic with children.

But, to add to the tales of woe, did move out of academia in my child bearing years because I could see so much potential for problems with short term research contracts.

That said, I am in a department with a lot of female staff, many of whom are still at the stage of babies and mat leaves. They all seem to be doing fine going in and out of academic contracts. It certainly isn't impossible, but writing up with a small baby: I couldn't have done it, and I did manage to hold down a successful professional job at that time.

April2013 Tue 15-Mar-16 14:49:45

You could consider a period of part time to deal with pregnancy probably making you not able to perform at your normal level (but you might be totally fine just a but tired in which case won't need to do this), then you can stretch out your funding and will have a bit of flexibility to deal with any pregnancy complications \symptoms etc. Look at the maternity leave situation - if you can have 6 months off with a baby and then return pt after you might be able to get 1 day childcare (or else just work when baby is sleeping) and your partner look after the baby all weekend so you can fit 3 days pt writing up in. It's all possible and seems sensible to do it at the start of your career. Academia is more flexible than other professions when it comes to dealing with pregnancy, babies etc. At the end of the day I think you have to prioritise pregnancy and babies if that's what you want, and that's OK, sure it will all work itself out.

moonbells Tue 15-Mar-16 15:21:12

Writing up was bad enough without being pregnant! I found out two things while pregnant which have relevance here...
(11 years after my viva - I got to a senior position before even considering a baby, which not everyone is wired for, and I was very lucky to get pregnant at 39...)

1) I got hyperemesis. I lost weeks to having to lie in bed motionless and try and drink without being severely ill. Some of that time I was in hospital on a drip. If you are one of the 1-2% of women who gets HG, then you won't be able to do anything. At all.

2) When I came out of the bad phase at about 18 weeks, I found I was able to focus very intensely and got a lot of catching up done, but still had to dodge other pregnancy complications like possible gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

I am sure I'd not have wanted to even try while writing up, in case something went very wrong and I ended up in a bad place mentally and found myself unable to finish the thesis. I would advise not trying until after you submit, and preferably not until after your viva. Plus you would be a lot less stressed - stress really doesn't help while expecting. Good luck.

malvinandhobbes Tue 15-Mar-16 15:56:58

OP, you are overgeneralising.

You didn't ask if you could have a baby and be an academic. Yes, of course you can, but it is hard and lots of women drop out. Many make it. You asked if you could have a baby and not disrupt your dissertation schedule. It is unlikely you can have a baby while on a 4 year PhD programme and not delay your submission date.

You can work right through pregnancy. I don't know a single female academic who took pregnancy off. I finished data collection and wrote a dissertation with DS1, with DS2 I was a junior academic and wrote several papers and a successful grant application, and with this third pregnancy I am getting a huge multi site trial off the ground. It is bloody hard but you can work through pregnancy. This is true for any woman in any job.

You just need to take a maternity leave, like anyone would. Lots of academics/students will take time off working but not time away from being a student. If you view your PhD as a job (as you should) then take your maternity leave and come back. Unless you get one of those unicorn sleeping babies, and you somehow manage not to go all doo-lolly from the oxytocin if you breastfeed, writing and having a newborn is hard.

Badger91 Tue 15-Mar-16 16:12:19

I know a lot of women who have worked whilst pregnant. Not many people have the luxury of giving up everything and dedicate their life to producing offspring.

I take my PhD very seriously and I am on track to finish early so I certainly do consider it a "job". I am also leaving academia afterwards because I have met nothing but unpleasant people. I will, though, still have a career and have my children throughout my career - whilst working. Regardless of what job I'm doing

Everythinggettingbigger Tue 15-Mar-16 16:26:01

Not the same, but I had my DS during my degree, I did take a year out to have him as he was due in November and all my exams would have been in December so I would have missed out. I went back, got my degree and now work in the industry I studied for smile

FozBoz Tue 15-Mar-16 18:19:27

I would strongly consider either a period of mat leave (most funders cover this) or waiting for six months or so to ensure you're really on track.

I finished my PhD in Nov (I started it with a 10 month old baby) and the final stages where you think you're nearly there are longer than I expected (things like submitting, waiting for viva dates, viva prep, corrections etc) all surprised me. Not something you want to be even thinking about while pregnant or on early mat leave.

I'm pregnant now with second baby and wanted to start trying to conceive while in my final year - I am so glad I waited. I appreciate everyone's situation is different though.

Good luck with both!

Arborea Tue 15-Mar-16 19:34:21

OP it sounds like you have already made up your mind! Come back and tell us all how you found it, won't you?

BTW if you have already decided not to pursue a career in academia is it essential to complete the PhD? I imagine it's industry specific but in my line of work it wouldn't matter a jot whether you finished your PhD or not: the academic side is very far removed from practice.

Wandastartup Tue 15-Mar-16 19:43:56

I had IVF and was pregnant during my research & writing up. Took 6 months off then went back to work for 3 months. I'm a doctor too so then got a consultant job, finished writing up & submitted when baby number 1 was 15/12. Had viva (& passed) when baby no 1 was 18/12 and 6/12 pregnant with no 2. It can be done!

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