Pregnant and Parenting Students
Starting and growing your family can be a very exciting time, but it can also be a very challenging one, especially when you are pursuing studies in a rigorous advanced degree program. By talking with your Program Accommodation Liaison and gaining the approval of your program director, you can make adjustments to your schedule and program requirements to meet your academic and life needs. These adjustments can be made for any student who will be welcoming a new child into their family, including both birth parents (pregnant student) and non-birth parents (such as the father, parent through surrogacy, adoptive parent or foster parent). Please refer to the other sections of this website for information about child care (including financial assistance), lactation and other resources.
There are two basic options to consider if you're expecting to add to your family, in order to accommodate the birth or adoption of your child: You may opt to take a voluntary Leave of Absence or Continue Enrollment. If you choose to continue enrollment, this can be with or without reasonable academic adjustments.
To learn more about the impact of either option and your overall plan for any adjustments, talk with your Program Accommodation Liaison and your program director, and get input from the Office for Student Access.
If you're a student who is pregnant or expecting a new child, you should consider whether a Leave of Absence is appropriate and/or preferred depending on your circumstances. Read the Voluntary Leave of Absence and Withdrawal Policy.
You should be aware that during a leave of absence you may not have access to University services (such as email and the Student Health and Wellness Center) and that taking a leave of absence may require you to join a subsequent cohort when returning from your leave, depending on the timing and duration of your request (for example, in progressive curriculum programs). Before you decide to take a leave, talk with your program director about how a leave of absence might affect the progress towards your degree and graduation date.
If you decide to take a leave, you’ll need to fill out the Withdrawal or Leave of Absence Form. If you have questions about how to fill out the form, contact the Office of the Registrar at 503-494-7800 or visit the Office of the Registrar website. Before you come back to school, you must give your program director a written request to resume your studies.
Depending on the timing of the pregnancy and/or desired amount of time you would like to have at home following childbirth or adoption, it may be possible for you to continue your enrollment, either as a part-time or full-time student, without taking a leave of absence. The feasibility of this option is dependent upon each program and the year of the program in which the birth or adoption will occur.
You may also utilize distance learning options, if available, or may be able to enroll in a course that you can complete from home (for example, Scholarly Project or a research elective). These options may enable you to maintain enrollment status while also allowing additional time at home with a more flexible schedule. You are encouraged to meet with your Program Accommodation Liaison to learn what options are available in your particular academic program.
Please refer to the Academic Policy/Approved Policies web page for important OHSU academic policies, including Exam Schedule Change, University Grading and Voluntary Leave of Absence.
Reasonable academic adjustments
Under Title IX, you can request reasonable academic adjustments to your program to accommodate the birth or adoption of your child. These requests can be made regardless of whether you request to take a voluntary leave of absence. Some of the most common adjustments include adjustments to academic requirements and/or schedule. See below for examples of academic adjustments, more about scheduling adjustment periods, how to request academic adjustments and how academic adjustments get put into place.
Understanding academic adjustments
Please note that academic adjustments within this context are intended to help accommodate the conditions of pregnancy, childbirth and/or adoption. These are not applicable to routine parenting concerns such as child care.
Some examples of academic adjustments include but aren’t limited to:
- Excusing medically-necessary absences for pregnancy (including routine prenatal care), childbirth, and/or adoption.
- Granting reasonable adjustments to protect the health and safety of the pregnancy, such as staying a safe distance from hazardous substances or radiation.
- Being granted reasonable rest periods if you are a breastfeeding student to allow you time to pump or express breast milk for your child or children 12 months of age or younger. A reasonable rest period is a period of time during which breastfeeding students may pump or express breast milk. The reasonable rest period is no less than 30 minutes during each 4-hour period. See OHSU's Workplace Breastfeeding Protocol on O2.
- Extending deadlines and/or allowing the student to make-up missed assignments, clinical or lab hours, or other course requirements due to the birth or adoption of a child.
- Note, all incomplete work associated with incomplete ("I") grades assigned as a result of an extension must be completed by the end of the following term. Extensions may not be guaranteed in programs where courses or laboratory work are offered annually.
- Being allowed to delay exams due to the birth or adoption of a new child (see Change in Scheduled Examination policy).
- Working with the student to minimize the impact on progress towards degree, such as rescheduling rural or distance rotations and courses from which the student has withdrawn. The feasibility of rescheduling requested courses or locations is dependent on course availability in the student’s program and is not guaranteed.
- Authorizing an extension for you to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations and an extension of 12 months towards normative time to degree while in candidacy. Extensions may be considered by the program in extenuating circumstances.
- Rescheduling rural or distance rotations and courses and courses from which you have withdrawn. This is dependent on course availability in your academic program and is not guaranteed.
- Stipend support: For eight weeks, graduate students supported by stipends or fellowships are relieved of full-time graduate responsibilities and can modify their duties for 8 weeks to accommodate the birth or adoption of a child. You’ll maintain full-time enrollment at the minimum number of credits. Your visa status and loan repayment schedule won’t change, and you’ll keep your health insurance benefits.
Scheduling Adjustment Period
Subject to agreement by all OHSU programs, as a student you may request and be granted a Scheduling Adjustment Period of at least 12 consecutive weeks to allow for bonding time and physical recovery from childbirth. During a scheduling adjustment period, if you are pregnant and/or expecting a new child, you may be granted additional flexibility in existing scheduling requirements.
The Scheduling Adjustment Period should occur at a time of your (the student’s) choosing but must begin within the first 6 months of your child coming home. If you are pregnant, you may elect to begin your Scheduling Adjustment Period up to 4 weeks prior to the anticipated birth of your child. Extensions may be granted when additional time is required due to medical necessity or extraordinary parenting responsibilities.
During a Scheduling Adjustment Period, you may be granted additional flexibility:
- With the permission of your academic program, you may withdraw from clinical courses any time prior to the first day of the term. Students in all other courses may withdraw from non-clinical course or term enrollment consistent with OHSU add/drop deadlines.
- With the permission of your academic program, you may enroll with part-time status during some or all of your adjustment period, but you should be aware of how this may affect your enrollment status and financial aid eligibility. Changes to your schedule that extend beyond the 12-week adjustment period are approved at the discretion of your program director. Depending on the timing and duration of your request, you may be advised to take a Voluntary Leave of Absence (above).
- Program faculty and staff should work with you to reschedule dropped courses and make a good-faith effort to schedule different courses within the adjustment period (for example, courses with a distance learning option), if you request. The feasibility of rescheduling your requested courses is dependent on course availability in your program and is not guaranteed.
Additionally, program faculty and staff should make a good-faith effort to help you satisfy degree requirements in rural or distance locations at a time that is preferable to you (for example, prior to childbirth) to allow for bonding time and/or to support you in meeting your breastfeeding goals. Again, the feasibility of fulfilling your request is dependent on course availability and is not guaranteed.
Requesting academic adjustments
You are under no obligation to declare your pregnancy or expected adoption. However, if you want to request adjustments, you need to give your mentor, thesis committee (if applicable) and program director a reasonable amount of time to review them with the Office for Student Access (steps and details below).
Once your program director has consulted with the Office for Student Access, they’ll approve or deny your request. They should notify you in writing of their decision. If your request is denied, you can appeal to your dean. The decision of the dean is final.
Steps and details in requesting academic adjustments
- You should work together with your program accommodation liaison (PAL) and PD to draft a plan with guidance from the OSA. Use the form and follow policies appropriate to your program:
- School of Medicine Graduate Studies program (only):
- All other programs:
- Form: Academic Adjustment request form
- Policy: There is no formal policy specifically about birth or adoption of a child. View academic policies
- Submit your proposed plan (the completed Academic Adjustment form) to OSA.
- OSA will consult with OCIC to obtain additional guidance if necessary. This will be needed only if your case is complex or the proposed accommodation may be a fundamental alteration to standard procedures or deemed unreasonable. If the plan is acceptable for all parties and reasonable according to OSA, then OCIC will not need to be involved.
- OSA will notify your PAL of any concerns with your proposed plan, and next steps.
Putting adjustments in place
The above steps outline how to get adjustments approved and put in place, which involves input from your PAL, program director, and Office for Student Access.
If you need to modify those changes after they’re approved, let your PAL and program director know in writing. This may require a re-review of your accommodation plan.
What is a program accommodation liaison?
Your program accommodation liaison is the best resource to help guide you through your academic options as well as connect you to the people who will answer your questions about financial aid, insurance and continuing enrollment. A PAL works with you and your faculty members to address your needs during and after pregnancy, childbirth or adoption. Each school has been assigned a PAL. Find out who is your PAL at the Office for Student Access website.
Insurance and financial aid impacts
You are strongly encouraged to meet with a financial aid representative to discuss the impact that academic adjustments, a reduced course load and/or a leave of absence will have on tuition and fee charges, financial aid, enrollment status and health insurance coverage.
A leave of absence may affect your student health insurance coverage. If you are covered by the student health insurance plan, read more about what changes you may expect under the Qualifying Events and Graduation tab on the Student Health Insurance Plan page of the Student Health and Wellness website.
Generally, to be eligible for student financial aid at all in a term, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 5 credits per term as a graduate level student. If you are not enrolled all weeks of the term and/or are starting the term late, this may impact your eligibility for funding for living expenses.
For questions regarding your specific eligibility based on your schedule and enrollment plans, please contact the Financial Aid Office directly at email@example.com or 503-494-7800.
Checklist for students expecting a new child
- Consider your academic options and which option(s) you think might be best for you, your growing family and your education.
- Meet with your Program Accommodation Liaison to discuss specific academic options within your program and phase of curriculum (e.g. preclinical vs. clinical) and what impact these may have on the progress towards your degree. Come up with a plan.
- Request reasonable academic adjustments, if desired, by completing the appropriate request form in consultation with your Program Accommodation Liaison, program director and Office for Student Access.
- Request a leave of absence if appropriate and/or preferred.
- Plan for child care. It isn't uncommon for child care centers to have a 10-month waiting list, so this can help you secure a spot for when it's time. Likewise, finding a nanny or au pair can also take many months. Doing this planning ahead of time will make the transition that much easier when the time comes.
- Request access to lactation rooms if desired.
- Although not required, it may be helpful to communicate with faculty and staff about the need to leave immediately should you (the pregnant student) or the birth parent go into labor.
- Plan child care if you have not already done so.
- Know your breastfeeding options at school. Request access to lactation rooms if you have not already done so.
- Continuing Enrollment. If you completed all courses prior to your child’s birth or adoption and are continuing enrollment, simply attend your next scheduled course. If you did not complete a course (for example, received an Incomplete grade), email your course director and talk with your Program Accommodation Liaison about setting up a plan to complete course requirements. Attend any courses that you are registered for while completing work for an Incomplete course.
- Leave of Absence. If you have taken an official leave of absence, please follow the steps below adapted from the Student Health and Wellness intranet site and refer to the Student Medical Leave of Absence web page for additional details.
- Have your treating health care provider complete the reinstatement attestation form. Note that Student Health and Wellness Center is unable to complete the reinstatement form. Only an outside treating provider may perform that service.
- Sign the form at the top giving your permission for this very limited release of information.
- Fax, email or bring the form to the Student Health and Wellness Center. When they receive the Reinstatement Attestation, they will email the Registrar's Office and your program contact to let them know the form has been returned.
All other leave: Submit a letter of intent to return to your school or college no less than 20 business days before the start of the term you intend to enroll.
Your protections under law
OHSU is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals enjoy freedom from discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex, as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Sex discrimination, which can include discrimination based on pregnancy, marital status, or parental status, is prohibited and illegal in admissions and educational programs and activities.
As a student at OHSU, this means that faculty, staff, and other employees cannot require a student to limit their studies as the result of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Furthermore, harassment based on your pregnancy or parental status, regardless of your gender, is prohibited and illegal.
If you are experiencing discrimination or harassment due to pregnancy or parental status, you may file a report with the Office of Civil Rights Investigations and Compliance. OCIC carefully reviews concerns involving discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct. OCICconducts investigations and engages in alternative resolution processes, as needed. For more information, call 503-494-5148 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about resources for pregnant students, postdocs, and faculty on The Pregnant Scholar website.
Students with pregnancy-related disabilities, like any student with a short-term or temporary disability, are entitled to reasonable accommodations so that they will not be disadvantaged in their course of study or research.
If you are experiencing complications or other temporary medical conditions during pregnancy, you may qualify for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please contact the Office for Student Access for more information. The services provided to pregnant students shall be no less than those provided to students with temporary medical conditions per Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Student Health and Wellness Center
The Student Health and Wellness Center provides health and wellness services to students and postdoctoral scholars. More information is available on their intranet site: They don’t offer pediatric care but they do offer primary care and counseling services, and many of their services are free and confidential.