Calculations and experimental measurements of the thermally induced strain and birefringence are presented for a diode–pumped Nd:YAG rod that is encapsulated in a prismatic pump light collector. A numerical model is developed to determine the spatiotemporal stress–induced strain distribution across the prism, index–matching fixant, and laser rod, and the birefringence that arises from the stressinduced strain within the laser rod. Calculations of the birefringence are compared with polarscopic measurements and display good agreement. Support for the rod on all sides is provided by the prism and fixant, and the distribution and degree of the stress–induced strain 1and birefringence2 within the laser rod are therefore influenced by the geometry and composition of the prism and fixant. These strains are thermomechanical in origin and are primarily a function of the elastic modulus of the fixant and the temperature of the system. Such stress–induced strains are additional to those strains that are produced from temperature gradients across the laser rod and result from the laser rod being constrained from expanding. Collectors utilizing index–matching fluid as the encapsulant display the smallest measure of birefringence relating to the temperature gradients in the rod. However, for collectors utilizing solid fixants 1with significant elastic modulus2, an increase in the birefringence results. In this case collector designs that have the laser rod located in a symmetrically shaped prism are effective in reducing the nonuniform pressures on the sides of the rod and therefore the birefringence.