PhD and Pregnancy



I'm new to this forum and have been reading the topics for awhile, and finally decided to post! I've just started my PhD (well in Jan) straight after completing my undergraduate. So far I've been finding it pretty hard going, I got married last august (at 21), now my husband and me have started thinking about when to start a family. I am funded, and have looked at the contract and i would get maternity pay and my PhD funded/extended by the amount of time i choose to take off.

I was wondering if anyone had been in a similar position and how easy they found it to get back into their PhD? we're not thinking of trying till half way through my 2nd year. I am in science/lab based PhD so i'm a bit worried about lab work etc suffering.

Hopefully you guys have some experience of this,

Thank you xx


I've made no secret of the fact that I'm trying to get pregnant, and similarly have a funded scholarship with what equates to 9 months fully paid maternity leave (which is pretty good in comparison with the world of work!). I am however quite a lot older than you, and my husband is 6 years older than me, so we have, shall we say, time constraints!!!
My advice would be to think about your age (young!) and your husbands. I can't give you advice on how easy it is to get back in; i'm a social scientist which means my PhD is pretty flexible. Also, in certain labs there my be chemical issues which would prevent you from doing lab work while pregnant. This might impact upon your decision.
One further issue:- if you don't start trying until 18 months in that only gives 18 months for you to get pregnant and give birth, i.e. effectively 9 months of trying. If you have a long cycle this can equate to only 8 or even 7 cycles. And quite alot of people won't get pregnant that quickly. Throughout your teenage years you're constantly told 'it only takes once to get pregnant'. In fact, very few people will get pregnant from just once. So, you could end up not managing it in that time frame and having to delay or face the prospect of a new baby and being unemployed.
Other things to think about:-
1) where are you living? do you rent/ own your place? I'm going to be in the latter category shortly, and while we would have been very happy to try whilst renting there are implications. I.e. if your boiler breaks you have to wait a 'reasonable time' for your landlord to fix it and might end up without hot water for a couple of days with a baby, in a situation that's out of your control.
2) do you intend to keep living in the same place
3) can you afford childcare
4) have you got plenty of back-up from family and friends
5) what does your other half do? will he be in a position to do his share of child care?

I don't mean to sound negative!!! Having a baby looks a wonderful thing. But it even took me and my other half over a year to decide we definitely wanted to go for it....


This is a good post and I am sure many of us have contemplated the timing issue. My partner and I figured that the "best" time for pregnancy during the PhD would be in the third year. This is based on having done most of the lab work by then (if all goes well) and coming to the writing up stage where you would be more flexible in where/when you could do the work, and not needing to come into the lab every day. I think it is very hard to do your PhD on full power and also plan for a pregancy and then young child, but no doubt it can be done (not that I have done it, but there are several people on this forum who have attested to this). As Pamplemousse pointed out, it all depends on your social network, support from your husband etc.


Good luck with your trying!

Thank you for the advice, I am worried about the affects of chemicals in the lab, and this has been playing on my mind alot. Originally we were thinking of having children once i had finished my PhD, but if we choose to have them sooner, we would get maternity pay which we wouldnt otherwise. I'm not keen to continue on and do a post doc after this, as i'm finding a Phd hard enough!

My husband is 3 years older than me, and is in a very stable job with a good income that can lucky support us both. he was in the army before i met him, and so i think he is ready to setlle down after doing lots of travelling!

we are in a very lucky position and own a 2 bedroom ground floor flat, that is quite large and has a large garden, and we are hoping to stay there for the next 5 or so years.

Its great to get some advice, as i've been unsure whether this is a good thing to do or not. I really want to finish my PhD, and dont want to decide to have a child and never return. My other worry is childcare as you mentioned, there is a campus nursery etc.


although this is not an issue i have experience of, i personally would not even consider getting pregnant during my phd. i'm not saying it can't be done, but being in the sciences i feel there is a degree of pressure on me to get this phd done asap and not hang around! there are other labs out there doing similar things to me and there is a bit of a rush to get my work out there and published before they beat me to it! obviously everyone's situation is different, and as i said before i'm sure it can be done, but i think it would take a HUGE amount of forethought and planning. i also feel it would be pretty hard to be writing up when you have a newborn baby to look after as well, and i wouldn't want the extra stress!

of course only you can decide what is the right route for you to take, and i'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have juggled babies and phds, but for me it would just add far too much extra pressure/work at a time when i guess i need to be pretty selfish to get through my phd.

but best of luck whatever you decide (up)


This had been posted before and the main thing seemed to be that it's possible if you are good at managing your time and sticking to deadlines. Good support is also key, you need someone who understands both situations (pregnancy and PhD) Also talking together a lot about how your both feeling before and during is good and avoids tension when you really don't need it.
Anything is possible you just have to adapt and change to fit it in.
My Partner is Starting a PhD in August and we have talked about having children too, and also decided in the 3rd year,
a) so he doesn't get stressed thinking he is not supporting me and getting stressed he isn't finishing the work.
b) So the baby is born before we start moving around doing PostDocs.

Hope it all works out for you.


I have no personal experience of this, but I would echo the need to ensure that you can have a safe pregnancy in your particular lab environment.

Personally if I were in your shoes and had the luxury of many years ahead in which I could consider starting a family, then I would wait until after the PhD. Yes, they can be done at the same time, but both are big things that will take huge amounts of your time and energy, so if it was me then I would have to have a very good reasons for choosing the path of doing both at once.

If you don't want to do a post doc that is understandable, but do you intend not to work at all after your PhD? Because any 'normal' job would give you maternity leave. Plus you say that your husband can support you both and your living situation is stable, so how crucial is it that you have maternity pay? Would you be able to cope without it?

The other argument in favour of waiting for a while is that if you've just come straight out of undergrad study into PhD, maybe it would be nice to experience a little bit of 'normal' life before becoming a mother!

Good luck with whatever you choose. :)


I had my daughter at the end of my second year. I planned to take one year out for maternity but actually took 2 so that I could go unofficially part-time 2 days a week one year then 3 days/week for the next - and then I took another 6 mo into my 4th (but in real time my 6th) year to submit.

This is just my opinion on your situation. If the only reason you are considering pregnancy during the PhD is maternity pay - that might not counterbalance the difficulties - especially if you partner earns enough to support you if necessary. It is very hard to predict how you will feel about going back full-time after maternity leave (how long - 6 mo - 1 year?). And not everyone finds it easy or palatable to put a baby (as opposed to a toddler or older) into nursery, especially full-time. If you wait until your 3rd year and try to ensure you have submitted before you give birth (and bear in mind you might not get a lot done if you have a difficult pergnancy) then you leave your options open. You can go back to work full-time, part-time or take a complete break and maybe have another child or more (childcare with 2 plus kids is VERY expensive). If you are not bothered about doing a postdoc - then all the more reason to wait until you have submitted.

My project was not lab based so I was able to take more leave and rearrange my hours in a way which you probably couldn't. I wouldn't have wanted to go full-time while she is a preschooler (and now I'm trying to negotiate a part-time postdoc so I can collect her from school next year 2 days/week). Of course working full-time suits a lot of people - I'm just suggesting that you leave yourself the option to make that a choice when the baby is actually here and you really know how you personally feel. I majorly suspect that you might regret having to go back full-time to submit because you are not driven by the desire to pursue a postdoc.

My age was a major factor and I absolutely couldn't wait another year.



Doing a PhD to me is like having another baby it demands all your time, all your thoughts.  My advice to you is that you are young, you can be supported through your PhD, get your PhD done first, in the 3 yr time frame if poss, then try for a baby; time is on your side. Once you have a baby, you could feel completely differently about letting someone else look after your child or amount of time in nursery, you probably wont feel like working or able to concentrate after many sleepless nights - and sleepless nights can last up to 3 yrs etc, although the amount of times up per night does reduce, or you could be lucky and have the perfect baby.  I have 3 children, I wanted to start my PhD back in 1995, then came 1st pregnancy - too sick to work and complete change of focus; now at last all of them are at school and I am determined to complete my PhD in 3-4 yrs (14 yrs later), but with children you cant be selfish and its difficult trying to juggle family life, PhD, the list could go on, etc, etc. So, basically what I am trying to say is in an ideal world (whats one of them!) do the PhD 1st, you will never be able to throw yourself into studies so completely and utterly after children - your young enough to do it all. Having said this, it is only my opinion, you need to do whats best for you. All the best  :-x


Hi - far be it from me to dissuade any one from having babies but if you are already finding it difficult then I think adding a baby into the mix will make it even more so. I have a nearly 5 year old and I would love to have another baby (ideally BEFORE starting my PhD but that didn't work out!) However, I am a lot older than you and haven't really got the luxury of waiting around. Having a child and doing a Phd is definitely do-able but you also miss out on a lot. I have not attended a few conferences I wanted to because I knew childcare would be a problem - and holidays are a massive problem! I have a vast stretch of July - September ahead of me where I don't think I am going to be able to work because my son will be at home .......eek! My advice would be definitely to wait and do one thing at a time. Good luck though with whatever you decide.


I'm 24 , 2nd yr phd and my boyf and i are getting married this year (after 5yrs). Even tho I've no lab work we'll not try for children til I'm finished. So many reasons:
1) will seriously need a break by the end, hoping to travel for a little while.
2) even the regular hormones mean at least 2 days per month are wasted, so at least first month of pregnancy would be a write off.
3) we get pretty little time for the two of us, add a baby in and our relationship would be at best put on hold.
4) Know too many friends who've had miscarriages and were told it was because of the stress of paper deadlines, writing up or just having to work long lab hours.

Really looking forward to having sprogs but want them to have a mommy who can look after them and a daddy who's not too busy looking after mommy when her reseach stresses her out!


I am 14-week pregnant and at the end of my core course study. I think it is possible to get pregnant while you are studying at graduate school. But there are factors that you and your partners should carefully evaluate before you make the final decision. I put down some thoughts in one of my articles. Check it out below and see if it helps. Let me know if you have more questions.