Thursday, April 16, 2015

C&EN request for stories of infertility

From the inbox:
Nobody likes to talk about infertility, but it’s a growing problem, especially among busy professionals who are putting off starting a family to start their careers. Once they start down the path of infertility treatments, however, it can be financially draining and take an emotional toll.

C&EN senior editor Linda Wang is looking for chemists (both male and female) willing to share their experiences with infertility and what impact it’s had on their lives and careers. Sources may choose to remain anonymous. E-mail Linda at if you are willing to contribute to the conversation.
Note e-mail address has been spam-proofed.  


  1. Civility, respect and kindness in the comments, please.

  2. The career issue has prompted me to put off major life milestones. I do not think I am yet infertile, but the impeding risk is ever present in my mind.

    I told myself I'd date after grad school. Then I put it off to get settled in my first job. Then there was job insecurity which prompted me to work even harder in the lab and forgo things like dating. Unfortunately that ended in layoff anyway. Then I told myself there was no point in dating because I would likely need to move. After moving for a new job, I wanted to get settled. An opportunity came up for a MBA, so I took on another 2 years without a social life. I have struggled with online dating for about a year now and am now concerned about pending M&A which may prompt another move. Most of the online matches I find cannot understand why someone would move so much or need the freedom to move. They have mostly grown up in the area and spend the weekends with extended family.

    I wish I could go back in time and tell myself time is not infinite. Jobs should not consume you. No matter what loyalty you give a career or employer, businesses change and your job may disappear in an instant. Don't sacrifice the important things in life for a few more reactions.

    1. I'm sorry that things haven't worked out the way you wanted, and you haven't had a secure chance to have children. I've known people who have gone ahead and had kids without letting financial insecurity stop them. Still, for anyone young reading this, it's better to just avoid terrible career choices, like science, in the first place.

      For me though, general economic insecurity is one reason why I want to avoid children. If I don't know whether I'll be able to provide for myself, and if I don't have an optimistic viewpoint about the world in general, why would I want the responsibility of kids? This also makes online dating a struggle, given that ~ 95% of the population does want to bread.

    2. does want to breed.

    3. My sentiments exactly. If you want a family, you need a steady job, and science research doesn't allow that. And, in my opinion, its worse for men in scientific research, because society expects men to have steady jobs or else society (and possibly your girlfriend or wife) think you are not "being the man".

  3. I did my postdoc in Israel not so long ago, and I find that a large amount of the graduate students are married and have one or two kids during graduate school. I think it's because they are three to four years older due to army and one year of travelling. Plus getting shot at tends to make you think about important things in life maybe... I don't know (and even if you haven't been to the army there is the odd terror attack or rocket barrage). In general, the average secular woman there had 2 (maybe 3) kids, and I thought the academics would be the same as the US in having pretty much no children in grad school and postdoc, but that was not the case. Plus the families with the small kids are often more effective a year later as they have a tight schedule and learn to deal with it. The fact that after six months kids can be dropped off at a kindergarten for 9 hours plus it's a small country so grandparents are nearby, also helps.

    Maybe there is greater competition for grad students, so they get more free time? But everyone just gets married in grad school like it's normal and a kid is born a year later, second one in postdoc. There is six months maternity leave, but it doesn't sound like enough to promote that kind of fertility. Maybe that sort of acceptance of children by advisors (it would be unheard of someone suggesting that kids will make you lose your focus in graduate school) should be transferred to the US, unless my theory about it being a product of war and existential anxiety is correct.

    But also, I heard that France and Sweden have high fertilities and it might be due to kindergartens being available, but I have no idea what it's like there with academics.