Pregnant and terrified PhD



I’ve just found out I’m 4 weeks pregnant and am just about to start the 1st year of a PhD in the humanities. I would really, really appreciate some advice.

My boyfriend and I recently moved halfway across the world so that I could do a PhD fully-funded and he could have more career options. I have no family or friends here and have yet to get to meet most of the people in my department. I don’t have any kind of support network, and will need to take coursework all this year, several modules and language lessons on top of teaching duties. Will this be possible while pregnant? And what about the second, third and fourth years with a tiny infant? My boyfriend currently works two part-time uni/tutoring jobs and I have guaranteed funding for 4 years (dependent on performance obviously). After this year I’ll have a more flexible schedule, but I know how impossible it is to get a full-time lectureship in my discipline and am well-aware of the ‘publish or perish’ imperative. I’m also worried about not being taken seriously in this new department and about not making friends with the other (young and carefree) graduate students. I’m 25 and feel like I’m throwing my life / dreams down the drain.

I really wish someone could give me advice about having a baby while starting a PhD or having a baby in a totally foreign country without a support network. I don’t want to get into pro-choice/life debates, I just need honest advice about how easy or difficult this will be. I feel like the baby must be feeling my stress and worry and misery…. Please help me!!


Hello Sara25
I am sorry to see your distress but please, I feel you will be just fine. I can understand and emphasise with your aspirations, and the reasoning to relocate so far for the opportunity for your PhD.
You have a wonderful future ahead - career and family.
Of course, experiencing the birth of your first child will present its challenges! But I can assure you that in all those lives you view as carefree, there are stories that create different challenges for these students.
In other words, during a PhD, due to the life stage we are at, we are all going through changes and I am sure also that the PhD just attracts craziness!
If our supervisor is worth their position, then they are understanding and compassionate.
You will build up a support network too - in your department and also through interaction with other expectant parents through your hospital.
There are no absolutes = it will neither be easy or difficult. But you will manage, and you will get through.


Hi Sara25,

Congratulations on starting your PhD program, and your new baby! In my academic department, a number of students were pregnant, new mothers, and single mothers, and they made it through their programs just fine. At my uni, there was an on-campus peer support network for new mothers, as well as a pre-k/day care facility. Perhaps you could inquire in the student services department, or health services department to see if anything like that is available. Since your scenario has changed, grad school isn't going to be exactly the way you initially imagined. That doesn't mean it won't be successful and exciting - it will be, but just different from the image you had in your mind.

I don't know if I would define the grad school demographic as "carefree." Unlike undergraduates, many grad students are married, dealing with ageing parents, jobs, mortgages, health issues, etcetera. Sure, there always are a few fortunate people who have the luxury of focusing solely on themselves, but it's not a horse race or competition. If you focus too much on what you think you're missing, you won't enjoy what you have.