When a pregnancy begins, the body goes through a series of physical, hormonal and emotional changes. This can put student parents in a precarious spot, and some may feel that they need to put their studies on hold.
Such was the case with Sarah Ramirez, a general studies student at Salt Lake Community College, who, upon finding out that she was pregnant, decided to take a break from her classes. “I wasn’t studying, but [I] was working,” she said. “The truth is, I had no idea [about pregnancy accommodations]. I had no idea until I finished my pregnancy.”
Fernando Quintero, accessibility advisor for the college’s Accessibility and Disability Services office, explained that pregnancy accommodations are indeed available through the department.
“I help students so that they have … a pleasant semester without many difficulties,” Quintero said. “Many of us have gone through the same circumstances, and we did not have those accommodations before.”
Quintero said accommodations are not limited to individuals who are pregnant or experiencing postpartum. The service, Quintero continued, also considers partners, as they are often heavily involved, providing support during pregnancy and after the child’s birth.
“The goal is to make sure students and faculty can work together,” Quintero added. He said students should not be left out or fail a class due to their condition. Such scenarios would go against Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits any discrimination on the basis of sex – which includes pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy and recovery.
“Just remember that it is important to be open and communicative [with] advisors and professors so that all can be worked out,” Quintero advised students.
James Hansen, a retired pediatrician who received his Ph.D. in endocrinology from the University of California, provided several medical insights regarding what pregnancy accommodations might look like while student parents navigate school. He noted that issues often stem from hormonal changes during pregnancy.
“The accommodations would have to be quite variable because some women require [more] attention,” Hansen said. “In general, accommodations would include allowing them to access facilities to deal with nausea. Patience, understanding and accepting their position … also need to be considered.”
Ramirez recalled feeling consistently tired during her Zumba class in the weeks after giving birth. She also said that she had difficulty finding someone to look after her baby, as bringing them to class was not ideal.
Ramirez praised the improvements that the college has made regarding accommodations for those who are pregnant as well as those with newborns, such as providing private rooms around campus for mothers to breastfeed their child.
“How cool is it to see accommodations like a breastfeeding room?” Ramirez said. “Because many things, like breastfeeding in public, are frowned upon.”
Hansen said the act of fostering a positive connection between a parent and their child is crucial to maintaining the proper development of the baby and is particularly important during the early stages of life.
“The accommodations for [a] woman with a new baby may include allowing her to bring the baby with her to school,” Hansen explained. “Or if that’s going to be too disruptive, there may be a compromise in allowing the mother to leave early or have short terms of not attending class.”
Students can find more information about pregnancy accommodations by contacting the Accessibility and Disability Services office.