Do I have to tell them???


I'm 7 months into my PhD and recently found out that I'm 6 weeks pregnant due to contraception failing. Though I considered my options carefully, my partner and I decided it is not the right time and chose to end the pregnancy and today had an abortion.

For the past 7 days I've had 'morning sickness' all day everyday and been unable to work or eat properly, drive or even stay awake for more than 7 or 8 hours at a time. I've been told my symptoms will subside within a couple of days.

Today I missed an exam which was part of a MRes module I was taking. I also have deadlines this Friday and next Wednesday and am struggling to meet them. I want to inform the university but I'm worried about being stigmatised. Furthermore, I'm terrified of letting my supervisor know, as I'm aware he had a Roman Catholic upbringing and may not agree with my decision to end the pregnancy. I don't want this to interfere with our relationship as we have at least another 2 and a half years of working together and our relationship is going quite well at the moment.

The module I am taking is independant of my school and I'm hoping I can apply to the research institute (who manage this module) for extenuating circumstances without having to inform my supervisor.

If I can resit the exam and get a 7 day extension on the assignment due this Friday that would be ideal and I don't see why my supervisors ever need to know.

I'd be incredibly grateful to hear from anyone with any previous experiences or advice.



NB. I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision though I do not wish for any anti-abortion advocates to comment with any kind of abuse or sympathy. Thank you.

Avatar for Pjlu

Dear Grumpymule, do not tell your supervisor about the termination please. Do let them know you have been really ill though.

Go back to your own doctor or the staff at the clinic you attended and request a medical certificate for your time off. They will not indicate the reason (nor should they). They will just indicate how ill you have been and this should be enough for you to resit exams and get an extension. If the clinic staff can't do this or are really busy for you to get to see them or something, then make an appointment with your own doctor and explain the situation, how ill you have been and that you need a medical certificate. They should give you advice about how to frame this to supervisors -as in what you say when you present your certificate. A bad stomach flu or something similar could be used as an excuse, if you have to explain. Even if you don't like 'lying' and don't believe you should have to-I would in this case.

The doctor will not judge. The supervisor may or may not judge but abortion can be an issue for Catholics and in any case, it is not the supervisor's business. In fact it is not something that you would need to discuss or disclose to anyone at all, unless you trust them and choose to do so.


I would inform them that you have been ill and attended the hospital for a medical procedure that has left you out of action fora week or so while you recover. They shouldn't really need to know more than that. If they try to dig deeper I believe you are within your rights not to disclose and just say it was for 'womens' issues that you would prefer to keep private. This covers any number of things from ovarian cysts, heavy periods etc etc. Most people actually shy away as soon as you mention 'womens issues' so I bet they daren't even ask. Good luck :-)


Pjlu and wowzers, thanks both of you ever so much. Your comments are really helpful and really comforting. It's been easy for me to be a little blinded by panic and not consider the option of telling my supervisors that I've been ill without actually giving them the details. I actually have to return to the clinic for a follow up appointment tomorrow and will call ahead to ask about a medical certificate. Failing that I will ask my GP and inform my supervisors that I had a medical procedure that has put me out of work for a week (without going into the details).

Will post an update here.

Thanks again for your support and advice! :)



Your very welcome. Hope tomorrows appt goes ok. xxx

Avatar for Pjlu

Good luck also with resit exam and assignments. Take care of yourself over the next few weeks GM. All the best, P.


Just found my way back on here and thought I'd take the chance to post an update (as I said I would). My situation above seems like forever ago now. I was able to claim extenuating circumstances for the exam I missed and the details of my circumstances were confidential between me and the admin only - she was fantastic and said that this kind of thing happened "much more than I would imagine". I told my supervisors and the other postgrads who noticed my absence that I had a minor op and there was a hint of awkwardness for me in telling them at the time though all is in the past now.

Thanks again to you both Wowzers and Pjlu for your advice and support, I was a great comfort in a time of panic and stress! :)


I am so glad the admin were able to help and you got what you needed to get by re the exam etc. xxxx