Salute to Spouses Blog

We're excited to be blogging about the latest topics in military life. We want to keep you informed on topics such as current events, education, career advice, etc. Feel free to post comments or questions to any of our entries.
Pregnant and in School? The Law is on Your Side

Autumn Lotz was pregnant with her second child when she went back to college.

She was doing well in her classes, but she was exhausted.

“The hardest part was dealing with homework, pregnancy and a toddler,” said Lotz, a Navy spouse. “Pregnancy brain is a serious thing.”

She dropped an 8 a.m. class because she was worried about her exhaustion affecting her grade.  Taking that class online would have been easier, she said, but she also admits that she doesn’t thrive in online classes.

“I’ve yet to finish my college degree,” she said. “Because of when I was due, in the middle of the semester, I had to take a whole semester off.  Then I had to take another semester off because she [my daughter] was too young for me to leave several hours at a time.”

Lotz is in her fourth year of working on her associate’s degree, and she still has an estimated two years left.

Lotz is also part of a growing trend of undergraduate college students who are considered “non-traditional,” which can mean, in a lot of cases, that they have at least one child.

While college enrollment can be considered advantageous for a family’s future economic prospects, a child can also present a blockade to finishing education, according to The Wisconsin Financial Aid Study, “Managing to Make It: The College Trajectories of Traditional-Aged Students with Children.”

Still, with the proper support, a college degree can be attainable for a student with children, according to the study.

“Schools need a published policy that respects pregnant women, whether they are faculty, staff or student,” said Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life, an organization that operates with the goal of meeting the needs of women, so as to lesson abortions.

Foster said that different institutions have different solutions, and it isn’t always “happening all over the place yet.”

“You’re your own advocate,” Foster said.

Inform professors ahead of time about your pregnancy and how it may affect your future in their course, even if you just need more breaks from sitting due to a baby dancing on your bladder.

“I mean, you can’t stop a pregnant woman from going to the bathroom,” she said.  “They have to accommodate this.”

Advocate for access to handicap parking or an elevator key, if it’s necessary, she added.

For the most part, though, things are getting better, Foster said.  And, if you will ask for support, people will provide what they can.

Still, the struggle is that “perception is reality,” Foster said. “We think that pregnancy means your education is over.”

But, even legally speaking, it doesn’t have to be.

Title IX means any educational program that receives federal funding cannot discriminate based on sex, including pregnancy.

This means pregnancy-related absences are excused; when you leave school, you can return and be reinstated.  Your grades can’t be penalized for pregnancy, and you cannot be harassed in any way for your condition.

“Under Title IX, schools must offer pregnant students the same benefits they offer to students with other temporary medical conditions,” according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Colleges take care of STD education, alcohol abuse and suicide prevention, she said.

“The last thing they talk about is pregnancy and parenting,” she added.

Some schools have childcare centers and childcare financial assistance in place for when the baby is born, she said.

“Who in college can afford an au pair?” she said.

Housing near or on campus for families is available at some places, compared to 20 years ago, when pregnant students watched “new housing go up for basketball players,” but nothing for them, Foster added.

Foster and Feminists for Life advocate for each campus to have a central place for pregnant and parent students to go for support.

They push for universities to allow places for breastfeeding, pumping, and breast-milk storage on campus, as well as helping parents have parental leave and health insurance coverage for themselves and their dependents.

“Pregnancy discrimination is against the law,” Foster said.

For Military Spouses
Apply for the Salute to Spouses scholarship today and begin your education! You’ll be on the way to your dream career.

Salute to Spouses Scholarship Recipients