Pregnant at University

Pregnant in College

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Pregnant in College — Impossible, or Perfect Timing?

  • As a pregnant student you are under legal protection. You may not be discriminated against.
  • Therefore, colleges and universities make adjustments and provide concessions for pregnant students. They are often set up to take care of the needs of pregnant students by utilizing staff members and posting information on their website.
  • Additionally, you are given access to financial support.
  • Depending on your area, between 1 in 7 (Canada) and 1 in 3 (UK) individuals enrolled in higher education are student parents. In the US 1/4 of the college student population are parents.

Know your rights and receive useful pointers by reading this article!

Pregnant While Studying – A World of Opportunities

When you found out you were pregnant, it may have seemed like you had to make a decision between dropping out of school or terminating your pregnancy. Fortunately, those are not your only two options. A world of opportunities has just been opened for you:

Protections and provisions are in place so that you can thrive as a student parent.

Pregnant in College – Are There Disadvantages?

By law you may not be discriminated against for being pregnant while enrolled in higher education. This means that you may not be treated unfairly or unfavorably because you are pregnant or have a child. Wondering which laws to fall back on?

Here are your country’s laws that protect you as a pregnant or parenting student:

United States of America:

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex—including pregnancy and parental status—in educational programs and activities. All public and private schools, school districts, colleges, and universities which receive federal funding must comply with Title IX.
  • The Office for Civil Rights on the U.S. Department of Education website fleshes out the practical implications.
  • Your Title IX coordinator on campus can answer any legal questions you might have.

United Kingdom:

Northern Ireland:

  • Protection from discrimination for pregnant or parenting students is provided in the following legislation:
    • Sex Discrimination Order 1976 (SDO)
    • Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA)
    • Special Educational Needs and Disability Order 2005 (SENDO)
  • Details are found in the Short Guide to Discrimination Law.

Republic of Ireland:

  • Each university has a set of policies regarding student parents with the focus on accommodations. These make it possible for students to pick up where they left off after maternity leave/leave of absence.

Australia:

Canada:

  • The Canadian Human Rights Act specifically lists “family status” as a “prohibited ground of discrimination”. Accommodations must be made if the pregnancy creates a disability (morning sickness, doctor’s visits etc.)
  • “Discriminatory Practices
    • 5 It is a discriminatory practice in the provision of goods, services, facilities, or accommodation customarily available to the general public
      • (a) to deny, or to deny access to, any such good, service, facility, or accommodation to any individual, or
      • (b) to differentiate adversely in relation to any individual,
    • on a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

New Zealand:

South Africa:

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

Reactions to your Pregnancy on Campus

When you tell your tutor or professor you are pregnant, their blank expression may feel unnerving. Don’t assume they are not happy for you. The fact is, they are obligated not to show emotion until they know that you are keeping the baby. Only then will you be met with congratulations.

Things to Consider

Here are some things you may be considering if you are pregnant at university.

  1. Timing (taking a leave of absence, switching to part-time)
  2. Exams, term papers and other credit requirements
  3. Internships or Work-studies while Pregnant – what are the options?
  4. Childcare
  5. Living Arrangements
  6. Location (Returning in person or switching to online school, Staying, or transferring to a cheaper college)
  7. Medical Insurance

1. ⏰ Timing

There are several options for you to consider regarding how to organize your studies around pregnancy and childbirth.

Leave of Absence

After giving birth many student moms desire to take time off. Thereby the baby receives undivided attention, while the mom can adjust to her new situation. You have the option of taking a semester off. You may even be required to take parental leave (Republic of Ireland). Specific financial support is generally available for your time away.

  • Here is information on student maternity leave, specific to your area:

United States of America:

  • A pregnancy may lead you to withdraw from your studies for medical reasons. Therefore, it is advisable to sign up for tuition insurance.
    • You would be reimbursed all your student fees, including
      • Enrolment fees
      • Tuition
      • Room and board

United Kingdom:

  • You are entitled to a leave of absence, but you are not obligated to take maternity leave.
  • Apply for Universal Credit.
  • Contact your assessment authority in writing to request your student finance to continue. This is up to their discretion. Include:
    • 1. An explanation of your financial hardship, should their payments cease
    • 2. An explanation of your lack of alternative income.
    • 3. List of monthly expenses
  • Apply to the discretionary Student Financial Support Fund. Include:
    • 1. Reason for your leave of absence
    • 2. Date when you will return to university.
    • 3. Rejection letter from the assessment authority for student finance
  • Students enrolled on NHS pre-registration courses who are receiving the maintenance grant element of the NHS Bursary will continue to receive their normal monthly bursary payments, including any dependent’s allowances, during their maternity leave/absence.

Northern Ireland:

Republic of Ireland:

  • If you have not paid into the system, you can apply for Half-Rate Maternity Benefit, if you are receiving One Parent Family Payment.
  • You must go on maternity leave two weeks before your due date and may return to your studies four weeks after the due date.
  • Let your tutor know at least four weeks before you go on maternity leave. You must supply your tutor with a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and specifying the due date.
  • Your tutor will bring your request for leave before the academic registry. You will most likely have to go off-books, unless much of your leave falls within a vacation period. 

Australia:

  • Centrelink Education Entry Payment helps you to pay the costs of returning to your studies. You do not need to make a separate application. Once you provide your proof of enrollment, Centrelink will automatically assess your eligibility for Education Entry Payment.

Canada:

  • You can leave up to three terms. You will have to fill out a leave of absence form, available from your university. Talk to a member of your university’s Family Care Office or your Students Union.
  • Financial Assistance while on maternity leave:
  • SGS Parental Grants of up to $5833 per term are awarded to doctoral students who are taking a leave of absence.
  • You can also apply for OASP

New Zealand:

  • You have the right to take a leave of absence. If you take a break which lasts more than three weeks, your regular student payments may cease.
  • This is when you can apply for Jobseeker Support Student Hardship.

South Africa:

  • Go to the Office of Student Support (OSS) for assistance. They will arrange for you to take a ‘leave of absence’ (LOA) rather than de-register
  • A student mother who wishes to return immediately after the birth of her baby must provide the school with a medical attest, certifying that she is physically fit to do so.

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

Uninterrupted Study

Want to continue your studies without taking a break? This is permissible in most areas and accommodations are made to ensure a smooth transition to student parenthood. Specifics for your region are listed below.

Switching to Part Time

Part time studies usually means taking 2 to 3 classes per semester. The advantages include:

  • Lower tuition cost
  • Flexible schedule

Ask your student advisor how many credit hours are required for you to keep your eligibility for student loans or scholarships.

2. ✍️ Exams, Term Papers, and Other Credit Requirements

Student parents usually have a special status, allowing for specific accommodations to be made. Of course, these are only available to students who choose to reveal their pregnancy status.

Here are things you might want to ask for:

  • Allowing for absences for medical appointments
  • Flexibility on assignment deadlines
  • Deferred examinations to be counted as first attempts
  • Transfer to part-time study
  • Further support for study
  • No penalty for missing labs
  • Time off for prospective mothers and fathers

For details about accommodations for student moms, click on your country, below:

United States of America:

  • According to Title IX regulations, “your school MUST:
    • Excuse absences due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as your doctor says it is necessary.
    • Allow you to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before your medical leave began, which should include giving you the opportunity to make up any work missed while you were out.
    • Ensure that teachers understand the Title IX requirements related to excused absences/medical leave. Your teacher may not refuse to allow you to submit work after a deadline you missed because of pregnancy or childbirth. If your teacher’s grading is based in part on class participation or attendance and you missed class because of pregnancy or childbirth, you should be allowed to make up the participation or attendance credits you didn’t have the chance to earn.
    • Provide pregnant students with the same special services it provides to students with temporary medical conditions. This includes homebound instruction/at-home tutoring/independent study.”

United Kingdom:

  • Discuss your plans with your tutor. If your tutor is not providing sufficient support, don’t let this disturb you. Contact the Head of Department.
  • For more helpful hints, go to Pregnant at Uni.

Northern Ireland:

  • Tell your tutor if you need an extension to an assignment deadline. Should this be your final assignment you will need to use the special circumstances procedure within 14 days of the cut-off date. Include a letter from your doctor or midwife in your application, stating that you were unable to meet the deadline.

Republic of Ireland:

  • Your program handbook will tell you where and how to apply for accommodations and deferrals. This could be the college office, the Student Affairs Committee, your department office, or your tutor, but not the Examinations Office.
  • If you are granted a deferred examination, all other examinations for that time period will automatically be deferred.
  • Once you inform your tutor of your pregnancy, your tutor is expected to create a management plan for you.

Australia:

  • Contact your course director if you would like to decrease your study load. Speak to your subject coordinator/s about accommodations, such as extensions. Get in touch with the Student Liaison Team (Disability) if pregnancy symptoms disrupt your studies.

Canada:

  • For accommodations and deferrals contact the University Registrar’s Office.

New Zealand:

  • Accommodations differ from university to university. Oftentimes exemption forms are used.

South Africa:

Talk to your module coordinator(s). You may be asked to show the baby’s birth certificate.

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

3. 💪 Internships or Work-Studies While Pregnant

  • Perhaps you have been assigned a job, on or off campus, as part of a work-study program. Work-studies are often relevant to your studies and are a means of making your education more affordable.
  • Some courses include an internship or practicum lasting several weeks or even months. This may have been planned well in advance and now happens to coincide with your delivery date. Or perhaps the practicum is not suitable during pregnancy?

Learn about internships/work requirements and accommodations for pregnant and parenting students by clicking your country, below:

United States of America:

  • According to Title IX regulations, if you choose to complete your internship, you should be permitted to do so:
  • “Your school must allow you to participate in classes and extracurricular activities even though you are pregnant and not require you to submit a doctor’s note unless your school requires a doctor’s note from all students who have a physical or emotional condition requiring treatment by a doctor. Your school also must not require a doctor’s note from you after you have been hospitalized for childbirth unless it requires a doctor’s note from all students who have been hospitalized for other conditions.”

United Kingdom:

Northern Ireland:

  • You must take compulsory maternity leave for two weeks after your baby is born, or four weeks if your internship is in a factory.
  • When you inform your tutor of your pregnancy, your tutor will review the risk assessment for your specific work and make necessary changes to protect you and your unborn baby's health.

Republic of Ireland:

  • Each internship has their own policy guidelines written by your university. Longer internships may allow for sick leave or maternity leave. Usually, internships can be postponed.
  • If you are employed, maternity leave rights and regulations apply to your situation.
  • You must take at least 2 weeks’ maternity leave before your baby is due, and at least 4 weeks after the baby is born.

Australia:

  • If you intend to take part in a professional experience while pregnant, you must give your course coordinator a medical certificate stating your fitness to undertake the placement.
  • A risk assessment will be made before your placement.
  • When pregnant you have the choice to withdraw from your internship without penalty and complete the placement later. Discuss this with the Program Convenor. You may also continue with the placement.

Canada:

  • If you are currently working as well as studying and have been with your current employer for at least 13 weeks, you may be entitled to a leave of absence and your job will be protected.
  • If you are pregnant, you are entitled to 17 weeks' pregnancy leave and up to 61 weeks of parental leave from work
  • Check whether you are eligible by going to Service Canada.

New Zealand:

South Africa:

  • If your placement puts you in an environment that uses procedures, substances and chemicals that may be potentially hazardous to your health or the health of your unborn baby, you are required to notify the module coordinator of your pregnancy.

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

4. 🚼 Childcare in College

Most courses of study require a lot of time and attention, necessitating childcare. The need for childcare also arises if you are supporting yourself and the baby while studying. Provisions are often made both by the university and the government to help with the facilitation and funding of childcare.

This is how your childcare needs are being met in your region:

United States of America:

  • The U.S. Department of Education has recognized how a lack of adequate childcare has contributed to high dropout rates among student parents. As a result, they created the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which offers colleges funding for childcare services and provides students with federal student aid that can also be used to help them pay for childcare.
  • Childcare Subsidies and Vouchers
  • The federal government provides grants and funding to states and local communities to cover a portion of day care services for student parents. Call 800-424-2246

United Kingdom:

  • The Childcare Grant is available to full-time students. To qualify, you must have a dependent child or children in registered or approved childcare. If you qualify, you can receive up to 85 per cent of your actual childcare costs.
  • Lone Parent's Childcare Grants are government payments to universities towards the cost of registered childcare costs. The maximum amount you can receive is up to £1,215/ year. You should apply for this from your college or university, who will choose who to grant it to out of their Childcare Fund.
  • Tax Free Childcare covers 25% of your childcare costs, up to £2,000 per year
  • For more information and advice please contact your university or college.
  • Day Nursery
    • Many Universities offer day nurseries for 3 months and up
  • Childminders (£6 per hour,)
  • Day Nursery (£100 to £200 per week)
  • Nursery School ages 3-5 (normally free)
  • This is where you can find daycare and find out if you can get help with childcare costs.

Northern Ireland:

  • Both Ulster and Queens offer day nurseries/creches on campus. 
  • Childcare grants cover 85% of your costs, paying up to £148.75 per week.

Republic of Ireland:

Australia:

  • Many universities have childcare at a reduced rate and preference is given to children of students, before offering spots to the public, like RMIT, Victoria University, Curtin University, UWA, JCU, UC, and UNSW
  • Centrelink – Child Care Benefit
    • Child Care Benefit helps you with the cost of childcare for long day care, family day care, occasional care, outside school hours care, vacation care and registered care
  • Centrelink – Child Care Rebate
    • Child Care Rebate assists parents or guardians with your out-of-pocket expenses for approved childcare if you are studying
  • Centrelink – Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance (JETCCFA)
    • Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care provides extra help with the cost of childcare for student parents. JET Child Care can help meet the cost of childcare by paying most of the “gap fee” not covered by Child Care Benefit for the hours of care you need for studies.

Canada:

New Zealand:

  • Seven out of the eight universities in New Zealand offer childcare to students at reduced rates including: Auckland University, Lincoln University, Massey University, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, and University of Wellington. 

South Africa:

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

5. 🏠 Living Arrangements for Student Parents

You have the right to live in your dorm room until delivery. This buys you time to find suitable housing for you and the baby. Some universities provide family apartments. Government housing or rent support is usually made available to student moms. For housing support in your area, click on your country:

United States of America:

8% of all U.S. colleges and universities have on-campus housing for student parents.

Apply for Section 8 Housing / Housing Choice Voucher Program, which helps low-income earners and their families with rental expenses. The program is managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who will directly pay a housing subsidy on your behalf to your landlord. You are only responsible for the difference between the subsidy and the total amount of rent due.

United Kingdom:

Northern Ireland:

  • Check with your college’s residential services team for availability of family housing.
  • Apply for Social Housing

Republic of Ireland:

Australia:

  • Share housing costs with other single moms using Shareabode.
  • General Public Housing Application (Make a web-search for your state)
  • Social Housing (Make a web-search for your state)
  • The Relocation Scholarship will be paid to eligible dependent Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY recipients to help with the costs of living away from home to study.
  • Rent Assistance gives you extra help if you rent privately.

Canada:

New Zealand:

South Africa:

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

6. 🗺️ Location

  • Another option worth considering is to transfer your studies. Perhaps switching to your local college will allow you to continue studying, by broadening your support base. Placing yourself closer to home may provide you with the support of family, close friends, or relatives.
  • Online school may also be a good fit, giving you more flexibility regarding location and timing.
  • Employers usually look at your academic performance rather than the name of your school. Switching to a less prestigious school rarely affects your career opportunities.

7. 🩺 Medical Insurance

Worried about maternity medical bills? As a low-income student you are usually covered, even in countries such as the USA where medical costs are generally high.

💰 Financial Support for Pregnant Students

Fortunately, pregnant, and parenting students have recourse to public and private funding, providing them with ample financial support.

1. Scholarships and other Resources for Pregnant Students

Find scholarships for student parents by clicking on your country’s tab below:

United States of America:

United Kingdom:

  • Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales
  • Apply for a Lone Parents’ Grant if you are a single mom. You will be able to receive up to £1,305/ year.
  • The government supplies universities with discretionary funds for students who have financial difficulties. Ask your Student Support or Student Services Office how to apply.
  • Access to Learning Fund (ALF) is available at your university. Google "ALF" and pick out your university's page.
  • Check if you are eligible for any other general grant offered by SAAS.
  • Get free baby items such as diapers, clothes, and a car seat through Baby Banks.
  • Go to the Advice and Guidance Team of your University. They will be able to help you apply for grants. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction for the support available for student parents, and help you understand how to talk to your tutor about it. 
  • Apply for a Parent’s Learning Allowance through the Student Loans Company.
  • Get advice from the National Association of Student Money Advisors (Nasma)

Northern Ireland:

  • Your Student Resource Center will help you find available scholarships.

Republic of Ireland:

  • Student Parent Welfare Fund – Go directly to your university’s student support office to find out how to apply.
  • Apply for the ESF Student Assistance Fund (a childcare receipt will help you receive this).

Australia:

Canada:

  • Contact the Equality Service Staff of your University.
  • Ask your Student Union Welfare Officer for financial advice.
  • Your Enrolment Services Advisor is another helpful point of contact.
  •  The on-campus food bank provides emergency food relief and personal hygiene supplies to students.
  • Your university wants you to be able to stay and will work hard to make it happen by providing resources for student parents.
  • Check out your university’s website. Pages are often dedicated to the needs of student parents.
  • Apply for Scholarships.
  • Pregnancy Resource Centers are a place to get advice and baby gear. You can find your local center through a web search or by going to Optionline or Carenet.

New Zealand:

South Africa:

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Northern Ireland:

  • Your Student Resource Center will help you find available scholarships.

Portugal:

Switzerland:

2. Government Support for Pregnant Students

This is where you can find information on your government’s financial aid for student parents. Click your country below:

United States of America:

United Kingdom:

Northern Ireland:

Republic of Ireland:

Australia:

Canada:

New Zealand:

South Africa:

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

Peer Support for Pregnant Students

Walking this road with other student parents can make a huge difference: You have a community to do life with. You can find out what worked for others, trade baby clothes and babysitting duties, and feel understood. Universities often facilitate groups for pregnant and parenting students. Find out how to access a peer support group in your region by referring to the chart below:

United States of America:

United Kingdom:

Northern Ireland:

  • Through Home Start you can get in touch with other single moms and find a volunteer who would like to make your life easier.  
  • Find support through Gingerbread NI

Republic of Ireland:

  • Take advantage of the network of support within the university in Student Services and the Students Union.
  • Universities often have a drop-in space specifically for expectant parents and student parents which is hosted by Student Parent Support Service. 

Australia:

  • Many Unis have their own peer support group for pregnant and parenting college students. Check your university’s website to find out more.

Canada:

New Zealand:

  • Check your university’s website or student services office to find a support group near you.

South Africa:

Austria:

Germany:

Italy:

Portugal:

Switzerland:

University: Perfect Timing for Pregnancy and Childbirth?!

There are advantages to having a baby while at university. In retrospect many student parents felt that this was providential rather than unfortunate. Here are some real life experiences of student moms:

  • I have never had so much time for my child as I did during my student years. The flexibility was invaluable!
  • Parenthood sharpens one’s personal skills: Bearing responsibility, time- and financial management. These are important skills for a successful life and have added to my employability.
  • Parenting while I am young makes it easier for me to relate to my child. I get so much more out of the experience.
  • Knowing that I was improving the future of my children was a huge motivator to keep going.

Non-the-less, it is understandable that you initially feel overwhelmed at the thought of managing your studies and raising a child simultaneously. You might wonder whether you have what it takes. Why not take the test?

Unintended Pregnancy in College - Overrun with Concerns

Hopefully this article has provided you with some ideas on how to navigate studies and pregnancy simultaneously... You may still feel unsure, being flooded by mixed emotions and a multitude of thoughts on where to go from here.

We understand! You do not have to walk this road alone. Our free digital resources provide you with unbiased counsel. Get the clarity you need, in order to discern which path is right for you:

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