Scientist and Parent: Planning during pregnancy

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Scientist and Parent: Planning during pregnancy

(Published in eLife)

Navigating her own two pregnancies while running a laboratory taught Shubha Tole, now a senior professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, that pregnancy does not have to derail a woman’s career in science. Since then, she has helped three of her postdoctoral fellows navigate their own pregnancies while continuing their projects. “People come up with all kinds of creative solutions,” Tole says.

Institutions and funders often have policies to support pregnant researchers, including paid family leave, laboratory safety precautions, and funding for technicians to assist with research tasks. But help can also come from colleagues being flexible to accommodate medical appointments or childcare pick-ups, or simply lending a helping hand when unforeseen hiccups arise.

Jillian Nissen had her first child when she was a postdoctoral fellow at Stony Brook University in New York, United States, where she used mice to study multiple sclerosis. She found the smell in the animal facility nauseating during her first trimester. “Having a really good supportive [project advisor] and group of peers helped with those challenges,” she says. Nissen’s colleagues helped her with small tasks in the animal facility and with any lifting she had to do.