Having a Baby at University – What Support is Available for Pregnant Students?
Being pregnant or having a baby whilst at university might seem like a task entirely impossible to manage, but there’s plenty of help out there for you.
Whilst it is certainly a unique circumstance that will demand a certain degree of patience and understanding from those around you,it can be done.
With help and support from friends, family members and the university itself, there is no reason why a healthy pregnancy or baby will impede on your academic progress. Here are some of the challenges you might face and how to overcome them.
One of the most significant issues for any expectant mother is the problem of finance, and this can be felt even more keenly by a full-time student. Pregnancy incurs various costs and expenses.
The costs of preparing a space for the little one to live, maternity clothes, car seats can add up. Not to mention that costs increase when the baby arrives. Childcare costs, clothes that the baby will outgrow every 4-6 months, food, medicines are just a few examples.
Luckily, there are various financial support programmes and entitlements which pregnant students can take advantage of. The Student Loans Company in England and Wales currently offers a Parent’s Learning Allowance and a childcare grant, received in addition to regular student finance. Eligibility for these two programmes is not guaranteed, but those going through a student pregnancy should apply nonetheless.
Speaking to the National Association of Student Money Advisors for further advice is also a good idea. An advisor can give you personal and detailed advice on your specific situation and offer help and guidance as required.
Meanwhile, it may be worth planning or have a plan for any paternity leave you may need to take if you’re starting a new job. It may also be worth finding out information about any child benefit or child tax credit you can receive via universal credit following graduation.
Being absent from lectures can take its toll on your academic progress, and being a pregnant student will incur various absences, both planned and unplanned. This includes antenatal appointments, maternity leave, unexpected medical appointments, morning sickness/healthcare and other various maternity-related absences or other extenuating circumstances over normal course time or your examination period.
The best way to overcome this challenge is to prepare in advance. This means talking to tutors, friends and fellow students and finding ways to avoid a situation where you fall behind on coursework in the academic year.
For example, if possible, a lecturer could make reasonable adjustments by recording their lectures and placing them online for you to watch when you cannot be in class.
If this isn’t possible, fellow students could use a voice recorder and send the lectures straight to your mobile phone. This way, your absences don’t have too much of an impact on your learning. Taking a course that allows for online learning can also be a good way to balance your own priorities with your academic responsibilities.
It is also a good idea to talk to the university as soon as possible once you’ve started. Let your tutors and lecturers know your situation so that they can adequately plan for it.
Your mode of study will ultimately differ from your peers and might take a degree of patience in getting used to, so it’s best to be upfront early on. Most universities will offer student support, with access to advisors and mental health counsellors through student services to help you through this challenge.
Additional stress for a new mother or an expectant mother can be tough. As a pregnant student, you may need to adjust your own personal circumstances, even when it means saying no to your friends and peers or even a tutor or lecturer.
Pacing yourself through pregnancy is essential whether you’re a full-time or part-time student. Therefore, it is necessary to have a group of trusted friends who understand your limits, who are ready and willing to help you if you need it.
Pregnancy is exhausting and emotionally taxing, so to juggle it with a full-time degree, you must give yourself time out no matter what your study programme.
Again, communication early on is key. If coursework is becoming more challenging due to the demands of the pregnancy, speak to your personal tutor, a trusted advisor or a member of staff at your university. Moreover, speaking to an NHS professional or your GP can be a good idea if you know you’re going to be doing more physical activity to get to and from your lecturers.
Preparing for the arrival
Being pregnant at university is one thing. Being a new mother at university is another. As soon as you know your due date, it would be best if you began preparing for your life at university as a new mother, preparing for the challenges that this might bring and planning for potential problems with a support plan.
Many universities offer childcare services and nurseries within the university facilities and ways for you to take rest breaks, so it is a sensible idea to research this well before your baby’s arrival, preferably in the early stages of your pregnancy.
There might be long waiting lists, eligibility requirements or specific planning needed for university childcare, for example, planning for breastfeeding, which can delay your application and thus delay your progression back into student life.
It would help if you also prepared for the new workload of having two big responsibilities and plan for other types of maternity-related absences. For example, the baby may fall ill for a couple of days, meaning a couple of days of work missed and extra travel costs to various appointments.
Again, call on not just student support services within the university but your own support circle around you, for example, family, friends and fellow students who can aid in your transition back to student life, whether it be helping with childcare, sending you lectures or giving you the time to rest before expecting you bright and beaming at their social events.
It can also be a good idea to speak to anyone you know with young children for further information about what to expect, especially if they’ve been in a similar situation.
Attending university as a pregnant student can be challenging, but starting a family can be done whilst studying with the right support and planning. If you’d like to find out how education providers can help you in this next stage of your education journey, explore our courses today.