When you’re pursuing a higher degree, the last thing you may have considered was an unplanned pregnancy in college. During this time, you’re supposed to be pursuing your passions, making new friends and learning who you are. An unplanned pregnancy can seriously disrupt those things.
While it can be overwhelming to face an unplanned pregnancy in college at the same time that you are trying to ace your exams and live on your own for the first time, remember that you always have options. You will always have the right to do what you think is best for you, no matter which unplanned pregnancy path you choose.
Before you move forward, take a deep breath. You will get through your unplanned pregnancy in college, and everything will be okay in the end.
You are Not Alone
You are not the first woman to face an unplanned pregnancy in college, and you will not be the last. Often, college is the first time that a young woman has the opportunity to explore who she is, and that can sometimes lead to increased sexual exploration, as well. In a 2016 study, about 60 percent of college students reported having sex in the past 12 months — but, with only 38 percent of college students using condoms every time they have sex, it’s no wonder that unplanned pregnancies occur in college.
These college pregnancy statistics tell an important story: You are not alone. More than 2 million women between the ages of 18 and 24 become pregnant each year, and college pregnancy rates mean that about 26 percent of undergraduate students are parents. In total, more than 4.8 million undergraduate students are raising children today.
If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy in college, remember that you have a support system available to you. You do not have to go through this challenge alone. Consider reaching out to your baby’s father, your parents, a university counselor or a pregnancy options counselor. It can be scary to admit your situation to your loved ones, but it will be much scarier to try to navigate your unplanned pregnancy in college all on your own.
Your Unplanned Pregnancy Options
As a young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, you always have the right to choose which unplanned pregnancy option is right for you. You will need to evaluate your personal situation and your goals and needs in order to make the best decision in your circumstances.
Below, find some guiding questions to help you determine what path to follow for your unplanned pregnancy in college.
If you are considering terminating your unplanned pregnancy in college, it’s important that you research the procedure and consider the risks and benefits of this decision. For some women in college, abortion allows them to continue their classes unheeded by a pregnancy and move forward from this complicated situation in their life.
Before choosing abortion, ask yourself these questions:
- Do your state laws allow for abortion in your situation? Throughout the United States, there are different laws regarding when and how a woman can obtain an abortion. While you will likely not be subject to parental notification and consent laws, you will likely be subject to a time restriction. Research your individual state’s laws; often, if a pregnancy is further along than 20 weeks, an abortion is illegal.
- Can you take the time off of classes to obtain an abortion, especially if you need to travel? Abortion laws may also require two separate appointments to obtain this procedure: one as a counseling appointment, and then the actual procedure appointment after an allotted wait period. If you do not have a local abortion clinic, you may be required to travel and miss class to obtain an abortion. Keep in mind that you may need extra time to recover after the procedure, as well.
- Can you afford the costs of an abortion? An abortion can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially if you do not use or have insurance. Many college students find that money hard to come by. You may consider speaking with the father of the baby and your parents if you cannot afford the costs of an abortion on your own. Certain facilities may also offer financial assistance for this procedure.
- Are you prepared for the potential physical and emotional risks? Like any medical procedure, abortion will come with medical risks. Working with a licensed, experienced professional will decrease those risks. You should also consider the emotional effects of terminating a pregnancy. While 95 percent of women do not regret their abortion in the long-term, you may feel emotions of guilt, shame and regret after your procedure.
According to college pregnancy statistics, a large number of college-aged students choose to raise their children after an unplanned pregnancy. Becoming a parent is a lifelong commitment, so ask yourself these questions before choosing this path:
- Can you afford to raise a child at this time in your life? Many college students are living on their own for the first time in their life, and finding the funds to support themselves and put themselves through school can be difficult enough. Raising a child will cost you, on average, more than $230,000 over 18 years. You might lean on your parents for financial support if you choose to raise your child, but you should be prepared for the financial commitment being a parent requires.
- Will you be able to continue your education while raising a child? Raising a child is a great commitment. It will likely interfere with your ability to attend class and study for your exams. In fact, less than 1 in 10 students with children complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of entry — even when higher education is essential to provide the stable life you want for your child as they grow up.
- Is the baby’s father willing to be involved? College pregnancy statistics reveal that 43 percent of parenting students are single mothers. If you are considering parenting, it will be important to have a support system, and the assistance of your baby’s father can be critical. When you tell him about your unplanned pregnancy, ask whether he is willing to co-parent with you.
- Are you comfortable with putting aside personal dreams to become a parent? When you raise a child, they will become your first priority. You may have to give up nights out with your friends, carefree dating and even your education to give them the opportunities they deserve. An unplanned pregnancy in college will vastly change your college experience, especially if you choose to keep your baby.
Finally, if you are not ready to be a parent and know that abortion is not right for you, you may consider adoption. This unplanned pregnancy choice will give your child a safe, loving family and give you the chance to watch them grow up and be assured that you made the right choice. Ask yourself these questions if you are considering placing a baby for adoption in college:
- Do you really understand how adoption works? Adoption is not the secretive process it used to be, and it’s not “giving up” a baby. Instead, adoption is a celebrated partnership between adoptive parents and birth parents, in which a birth parent’s rights are always respected — including the right to post-placement communication with their child.
- Are you comfortable with someone else raising your child? While you will have the right to open adoption communication with the adoptive family, adoption is not co-parenting. You will always get to choose the family who will adopt your child, but you must be comfortable with their parenting decisions and accept that they will be your child’s parents.
- Do you want to be involved in your child’s life? If you are not ready to raise your child, but you wish to give them a chance at life, adoption allows you to do so — and still play a role in your child’s life moving forward. You can choose how much contact you wish to have with your baby and their family. It can be anything from mediated letters and photos to direct texts, emails and even in-person visits.
- Can you manage classes while you continue your pregnancy? Choosing adoption means choosing to be pregnant. You may be required to miss certain classes for appointments and your delivery, but your adoption professional will work with you to provide the travel and medical assistance you need. Your medical expenses will always be free to you. However, if you are uncomfortable with the idea of being pregnant, adoption may not be the right choice for you.
Facing an unplanned pregnancy in college can be difficult. Only you can decide which path is best for you moving forward. Before choosing one, we encourage you to take advantage of your unplanned pregnancy resources and reach out to an options counselor for more guidance.