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When is the best time during PhD to TTC?

(9 Posts)
Squirrel77 Tue 05-Jul-11 10:21:38

Hi all, I've been lurking around here for a while, but thought I'd introduce myself and maybe ask for some advice...

I am at the end of the first year of my PhD. I am just about to turn 34 and DH is 37. We came from abroad so I could do the PhD - I am a dual UK citizen but he is here on a spousal visa. We are trying to figure out when to start TTC. Its a tricky situation for a few reasons...

- At this stage, I feel like I would prefer to have the child in our home country abroad, which is where other friends with children and also a lot of our family members live
- DH and I can't get child benefit etc here because of his immigration status
- I only have partial funding (full fees, half of living expenses) and DH is partly supporting me on a pretty low wage - I wouldn't get maternity leave pay. Money is pretty tight! We would get more government support in our home country
- I'm at a university which has some very old fashioned residency requirements - I would only be able to live elsewhere for one year of the PhD (and then only for 'scholarly' reasons) , so don't know how I'd manage to wrangle it if I got pregnant and wanted to leave the area
- Also, I have endometriosis (operated on a couple of years ago) and am worried I'm not getting any younger!

I haven't discussed the matter with my (male) supervisor at this stage, as it seems pretty personal...

Ideally, I'd wait until say February next year to TTC, because at least I'd have two years of the PhD under my belt when baby is born. I have been working really hard on it so far, it seems, compared to my fellow students - at this stage I'm on track to submit ahead of schedule.

But I'm also worried that the clock is ticking and we should start TTC now and just see what happens - if I get pregnant straight away, it would affect the PhD a bit more in terms of more of the PhD spent parenting and trouble with university residence requirements my doctor says, time is ticking!

So I guess my question is - in this situation would you all start now, or wait a while?
Do you have experience of your university being a bit more flexible in terms of residency requirements in this sort of situation?

Many thanks for your wisdom!


EightiesChick Tue 05-Jul-11 10:27:35

Hi! Couple of questions first:

Is your PhD a sciencey one that depends on lab work or a library based one that you could do at least some of at home?

Do you think you will be done in 2 years' time? If so, I would be tempted to say get your head down and work really hard, then start TTCing in 1 year.

Squirrel77 Tue 05-Jul-11 10:40:27

Hi, thanks for your message!

The PhD is in the humanities - I can do most work anywhere with an internet connection and only occasionally need to use an actual library. So I could do it at home, definitely.

I don't think it will be done in two years, but am optimistic that it could be done in about 2.5 years or at least by the 3 year mark - in the absence of major life events such as having a child (having seen so many friends go over deadline and run out of funding has made me work pretty hard!)


fluffles Tue 05-Jul-11 11:26:57

i'm sorry to hear that you'll get no maternity pay at all - can i ask whether you will get your current funding suspended? or how will it work?

am considering a funded phd.. don't know who the funder is yet and dont' want to say on here which university... but i'm also mid30s and cant' afford to postpone ttc so need to know what would happen if i was pregant and due before the end of the 3 funded years?

i believe that there's no legal obligation but 'most' unis give stat mat pay equivalent but i want to check how widespread this is..

[sorry to slightly derail your question.. but a more general discussion on phds and maternity breaks might help]

Squirrel77 Tue 05-Jul-11 11:44:20

Perhaps a new thread would be good - not sure to start one...but for now:

I have got funding from overseas where they pay your fees then give you a sum of money to spend as you please - it works out to living expenses for 1.5 years, living frugally. So there's no regular payment. There is a chance I could get SMP as I'll be doing a bit of teaching next year, but think I'll want to be back in my home country for baby's birth or head back there soon afterwards. If I was a 'home student' the situation might be different - so not sure how it would work if you had research council or other UK based funding. I'm sure others will have way more knowledge in this area - good luck!

fluffles Tue 05-Jul-11 12:18:47


my personal feeling is that i'm now 34. when i'm 40 would i be more devastated if i didn't have a phd or if i didn't have any children and was told it was unlikely i ever would have?

you've clearly given up a lot for your phd.. i've not even started.. but maybe asking yourself that will help you decide if it's worth the risk to your phd?

EightiesChick Tue 05-Jul-11 13:34:33

You sound very motivated and are in a position where you could work around having a baby and eneding to research/write up. However, I don't want to miminise the difficulty of doing this. I still think, then, given what you have said about wanting to be back home when the baby is actually born, that you would be served well by aiming to work really hard on your PhD for the next year, and maybe more - but assessing where you are up to this time next year. If you're likely to be teaching next year, it would also make a lot of sense to crack on now as teaching (esp if you're new to it) tends to be a big time suck.

Most universities have a minimum registration time - 2 years full-time minimum and 4 years PT - so you couldn't submit before then anyway, but if you were in a position to do so as early as possible it would be very good. That way you could be pregnant in the very final stages and work through the final parts of writing up, submit and then head off home to have your baby. Starting to TTC in the last stages of your work would also help in that if conceiving is quick, it's all good but if it takes a while, you haven't 'wasted' more time.

One issue here I don't know much about. Is endemetriosis affected by age (ie will it get worse as you get older)? What have your doctors said about the likelihood of you needing assistance to conceive, given your condition? Would it be possible to get tests done now or soon so that you know what you are dealing with?

Squirrel77 Tue 05-Jul-11 21:15:07

Hi again, your advice makes a lot of sense and has made me incline towards wating until next year to start trying - which makes me feel more comfortable with the whole idea!

On the endo issue, I'm not sure about whether it gets worse as one gets older and will try o find out, although there is statistically a higher likelihood of needing assistance to conceive. We have had a couple of tests already and apart from the endo, there are no other obvious fertility issues which is good.

Many thanks again!

wearymum200 Tue 12-Jul-11 15:11:05

Don't know which university, but I am at one (very old fashioned to put it mildly....)whose residency requirements are strict. But there is a get out clause around "living in the family home" which you can always push for. Suspension of PhD status for a year while you have baby and mat leave is entirely possible (been there, done that) and you could spend that year wherever you liked. Personally, i wouldn't expect to get much done in the 3 months post baby as a minimum and after that it would depend how much help you had at home. BUT you might well be able to work "from home" for the 2nd 6 months and then just re-register for 1 term to submit?
Fluffles, if you're likely to be funded by a fundign council, then they have to make proper maternity provision. I had my maternity pay covered and my grant extended by the duration of my mat leave to enable me to finish (I hope.... one day)
Good luck

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