Publish 17 June 2021
Does Pregnancy Derail Education?
An unexpected pregnancy can interrupt high school or higher education plans. Rather than coping in isolation, get the support to overcome challenges. Peers may instill fear or urge you to think only of your career. Pause and reflect on the life prospects of the unborn child.
Some women in their early twenties contemplate pregnancy while continuing education. They may or may not already be married. The question might be along the lines of discontinuing birth control to begin a family while pursuing a degree. Though this information can benefit them, it is primarily for adolescents, perhaps living with parents or in a dorm.
If you’re reading this, there is little point in extolling the virtues of abstinence. Teen pregnancy in the U.S. is declining, though the rate is higher than in other western industrialized nations. [1,2] Social ostracism has diminished over the past several decades. To hide pregnancy from neighbors, parents sent teens away to boarding schools. Fear of banishment led to many abortions. Today, it is not uncommon to see girls attend public schools during pregnancy.
We can’t diminish the complications of adolescent pregnancy. There is a higher risk of prematurity with negative emotional and socioeconomic outcomes for infants. There are also deleterious risks with terminating a pregnancy.
Abortion is Not Simple Fix
Morning-after pills do not end a pregnancy when an egg has been fertilized. Doctors do not recommend it as a primary birth control method. The pill’s purpose is to delay or prevent ovulation.
A fertilized egg is a life with which a mother forms attachment. This may be your only opportunity to conceive a child. Abortion is a shortsighted view of unplanned pregnancy. This remedy corresponds with elevated rates of mental illness compared to women without a history of abortion. [3,4] So the consequences of either pregnancy or abortion extend far beyond school years. There is no quick fix.
Potential Harm From Abortion 
- Followup removal of pregnancy remnants
- Injury to womb or cervix
- Heavy bleeding, womb damage, or sepsis
The pregnancy may be unplanned but this doesn’t have to be the case with decisions afterwards. Prepare yourself for the inevitable question: What are you going to do about it? As a starting point, explore possible ways of caring for a child: As a single mother; married to the father; with support of parents. List obvious complications:
- School work
- Medical care
- Day care
Have a calm discussion about pertinent factors with the father if this is an option. Research government support programs.  Consider scenarios for working through such issues. You likely won’t have all the answers. But this exercise prepares you for the next step. Speak with your parents.
Consult Your Village
You have no doubt heard the expression that it takes a village to raise a child. That village includes your immediate and extended families, educators, government agencies, health workers, and members of your religion. [5,6] Each individual may have opinions or predispositions. Don’t get sucked down a regrettable dark path of alienation from collective input.
Parents may express initial anger or disappointment. The natural bond of grandparents prompt most to help care for grandchildren regardless of the child’s father’s involvement. Families are not perfect; there may be some pride and dysfunction.
Teenage pregnancy deters women from achieving educational goals. In many cases, you can get support to continue your studies. Your education will benefit at least two lives.
The Title IX law in the United States prohibit schools from discriminating against pregnant students and mothers pursuing education.  Meet with your school’s Title IX Coordinator or counselor. Ask what your school can do to support you in continuing your education. Regarding excused absences and medical leave, 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, with 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 cannot 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.
Explore available resources. You may discover that you’re not alone with this responsibility. You truly have a village of support.
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