An unplanned pregnancy during your college years can seem overwhelming. It’s normal to feel scared and confused. You didn’t plan on getting pregnant, and there are unplanned pregnancy stories all around you, but the positive pregnancy test makes it all too real as it’s now YOU facing an unwanted pregnancy. Just a short time ago, you were living a life of freedom, away from your parent’s rules, and you had your future pretty well planned out.
Your college years are for pursuing your passions, making new friends, and discovering who you are.
Unfortunately, a planned pregnancy or in most cases, unwanted pregnancy, can totally disrupt everything.
But before you do anything, take a breath and remember that you have options. You have the right to do what you think is best for you, no matter which path you choose – there are many unplanned pregnancy options available to you.
So many women have been in the same place you are. In fact, over 2 million women between 18 and 24 become pregnant every year. In addition, around 26% of undergrads are parents meaning that more than 4.8 million undergraduate students are raising a child.
They found the strength to make the best decision for the baby and themselves. You can do the same. Here is information to help you as you make your decision.
Your First Steps
Before making any decisions, visit a clinic or your doctor to get a medical-grade pregnancy test. Although the at-home pregnancy tests are pretty accurate, once in a while, they’re wrong. Most college campuses have a medical center that offers low-cost or free pregnancy tests. Or, you can search for a pregnancy center near you.
Once you are sure of your pregnancy, you’ll need to figure out how to tell the father that you’re pregnant. The news of an unwanted pregnancy can be hard to handle, so you’ll want to prepare for this conversation as much as possible. Don’t just wing it; have a solid plan before you begin. You can get some helpful tips in our blog, “How to Tell Your Boyfriend That You Are Pregnant.”
If you’re not sure who your baby’s dad is, it’s natural to worry, but try not to let your concerns make you too stressed out. What’s done can’t be undone, and getting stressed is not good for you or your baby. Now is the time to really focus on your baby and yourself and be practical.
Talk to the people closest to you, such as your parents or best friend. Tell them what’s happening and that you need their support. If they offer suggestions on what to do, remind them that it’s up to you to consider your situation. You want to make the best decision for you and your baby.
Your Rights as a Pregnant College Student
The fact that you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to quit school. Instead, you can temporarily take a break or ask to take your classes online. Completing courses online will allow you to remain full-time and stay on track for getting your degree.
Under Title IX, pregnant students have the right to stay in school to finish their education and achieve their career goals. As a result, colleges and universities cannot discriminate against you for being pregnant. Per Title IX, an institution cannot penalize you for any absences due to pregnancy so long as you provide a doctor’s note.
And there’s more: your current education status must be restored when you return from maternity leave. Your professors cannot penalize your grades due to pregnancy issues. Pregnant students must be provided with the chance to make up any homework or participation points they may have missed.
Your Unplanned Pregnancy Options
If you’re thinking about terminating your pregnancy, you need to research the procedure to discover the risks and benefits of this decision. Before choosing abortion, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you prepared for the possible physical and emotional risks?
Like any medical procedure, abortion comes with medical risks. You should also keep in mind that ending a pregnancy has emotional side effects. You may face emotions of guilt, regret, and shame after your procedure.
- Do your state laws allow for an abortion?
In today’s post-Roe America, each state has different laws regarding when and how a woman can get an abortion. So take the time to research your individual state’s laws. Typically abortion is illegal if pregnancy is further along than 20 weeks.
- Can you take time off your classes to get an abortion, especially if you need to travel?
Abortion laws may also require that you have two separate appointments to obtain the procedure. The first one is a counseling appointment, and then the actual procedure is performed at the second appointment after an assigned wait period.
If there aren’t any abortion clinics nearby, you may have to travel and miss class to get an abortion. You will likely need extra time after the procedure to recover, as well.
- Can you afford an abortion?
Abortion costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially if you don’t have insurance. Most college students don’t have that kind of money. You may consider speaking with the baby’s father and your parents if you can’t afford the costs of abortion on your own.
It’s not easy being a single mom. Most women who get pregnant in college and choose to parent their child quit school and never return. Without a college education, she probably won’t earn much money and may end up in a cycle of poverty.
As you think about raising your child, consider your situation and ask yourself some hard questions:
- Are you able to financially support a baby?
- Will you need to quit school?
- Will you need to get a job?
- Where will you live?
- What about your future?
- Are you ready to be a parent?
Imagine waking up to go to your morning classes after waking up most of the night with a crying baby. When you’re done with your classes, you go to your job for 8 hours. Once you’re done with work, you pick up your baby from childcare. Then, you return home and start the process all over again. In this situation, you’re not really raising your child; the daycare provider is doing most of the nurturing and caring for your child. Even though this daily routine is necessary, it’s not the best way for a child to start out.
Of course, you want to do what’s best for you and your baby. But can you give your child the best life while still in college? Consider your situation. Do you want to quit school right now? If your answer is no, and you don’t feel comfortable with abortion, then adoption is your best option.
With open adoption, you can hand-pick the parents who will raise your baby. You can choose where your child will grow up, the occupations of their adoptive parents, and even what religion they’ll be brought up with. You also can choose whether you’d like to stay in touch in the future, get updates on your child, and visit your child and the adoptive family in person.
Not only will you be able to get your degree and better your own life, but you can give your child a mom and dad who will provide a financially stable and loving home. You’ll be able to go on with your future, always knowing that your child is in the best possible home you could have given them.
Open adoption allows you to make sure your child is with a loving, happy family. It also lets you to savor the present while building your future and seeing your child grow into adulthood.
It’s hard to face an unwanted pregnancy in college. However, we have experienced adoption professionals who are available 24/7. They are ready to talk with you about making an adoption plan for your baby. In addition, they’ll answer your questions, explain the resources available to you, and help you know your rights as a birth mother.
These experienced adoption professionals want to help you. If you need a support system to lean on, they are there for you.
Only you can decide which choice is best for you moving forward. But before choosing one, we encourage you to explore your unplanned pregnancy options fully.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 4, 2017, and has since been updated.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.