Falling pregnant accidentally is terrifying under any circumstances – falling pregnant while studying at university even more so. The scary reality is that teen pregnancies are not uncommon. In fact, girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old account for 11% of births worldwide every year. Furthermore, a report released in 2018 showed that 119 645 young women aged between 15 – 19 registered births in South Africa in 2017.
The good news is that falling pregnant, and subsequently having a baby, while you are at varsity does not need to have a permanent impact on your studies. Most local universities have policies in place that seek to provide pregnant students and new moms with the support necessary in order to complete their degree.
For example, the University of the Witwatersrand ‘pregnancy policy’ states that the following may be considered to assist a pregnant student in continuing her studies:
- She may be granted time off (for a pre-determined amount of time) for the birth and for a period thereafter;
- She may be granted periods of absence for medical appointments, and arrangements can be made for the student to catch up on missed classes;
- Appropriate flexibility may be granted regarding assignment deadlines if the student’s circumstances make it difficult for them to be met;
- If she is registered for a research degree, she may apply to have her studies suspended;
- She will be provided with support to help her reintegrate into her studies after any period of prolonged absence.
Now that you know how your university is likely to go above and beyond to accommodate you throughout your pregnancy, you will probably be wondering what your next steps will be. Following a positive home pregnancy test, you should:
Visit a doctor to confirm the pregnancy
The doctor will perform blood tests and make sure that you are in good general health. He or she will also provide advice, guidelines, and answer any questions that you may have.
Research and discuss your options with your loved ones
You may opt to continue with the pregnancy and have the baby, consider putting the baby up for adoption after he or she is born, or choose to terminate the pregnancy. While it can be helpful to speak to people whom you trust about these options, the final decision lies with you. Your body, your choice.
Seek prenatal care
Regular prenatal care is essential should you decide to continue with the pregnancy. This will allow your OB/GYN to monitor the baby’s growth, as well as keep an eye on your health.
Look after yourself
It is not recommended to drink alcohol, smoke, or take any narcotics while you are pregnant. You should also strive to eat a healthy diet filled with nutritious food in its most natural state – i.e. fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, etc. Regular physical activity is also great for the growing baby and for preparing your body for birth. Just keep all exercise moderate and speak to your doctor before starting a workout plan if you were not particularly active before you fell pregnant.
Build up a support system
Most importantly, build up a good support system that includes supportive friends, experienced professionals, and perhaps a few other women who have been through a similar thing and who can share advice. There are plenty of excellent teen pregnancy support groups on Facebook.
Enjoy this time and stay focused on your goals. With a bit of perseverance and self-belief there is nothing stopping you from completing your studies and being a great mom to your little one!