Baby steps for the pregnant PhD student

Baby steps for the pregnant PhD student

So you just found out you are pregnant?  Congratulations, that’s so exciting!  But you are a PhD student?  Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world.  Everyone reacts to pregnancy differently, especially if it is unexpected. Though it seems as if the world of academia is not suitable for the pregnant woman, you can have a baby and be an academic.  Here are some of the first steps you should take when you find out you’re expecting:

1. Breathe

The first thing you need to do is remain calm.  If the pregnancy was unplanned, you may be in shock or have mixed feelings. This is OK and normal. Wait until you have had time to absorb this exciting news before you move on.

2. Consider your options.

Having a child does not have to be the end of your graduate school experience.  Many women have had children during their PhD studies and even more have children during their early academic careers.  It is possible, but it is not for everyone.  Take a couple days to think about how you would like to proceed with your schooling.

3. Look into your school’s policy on maternity leave for students.

Many schools offer maternity leave for students.  For example, my institution offered 6 weeks of paid leave.  You should be able to find the policy in your student handbook or through contacting your Graduate College.  Locate and study this policy before you discuss your pregnancy with your advisor or colleagues.   You may also have the option to take a leave of absence for an entire semester, though such a leave of absence is typically unpaid.

4. Make a plan.

Start thinking about dates. Scheduling around an impending baby can be difficult; babies do not follow your plan.  Regardless, you have an idea of when the baby will be born, think about how this will effect your studies or research.  Consider how it will effect your colleagues and advisor as well.

5. Don’t forget to make your first doctor’s appointment and start getting excited!

Find a doctor within a reasonable distance to your home or school, you will be making a lot of visits in the next nine months.  While you are researching your insurance for reasonable doctors, consider how your baby will be insured.  If you are covered under your parent’s insurance, it will not cover the baby when they are born, even in the hospital.  If your school offers insurance, particularly for dependents, this is the time to think about enrolling before it is too late.

What were your first thoughts when you found out you were pregnant and what do you wish you had known?

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