Student Health’s lack of prenatal services makes health care too expensive for pregnant students

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Two blue lines. Two blue lines that represent a known miracle. Two blue lines that, to many, symbolize the beginning of a life. But they can also mean the end of a mother’s college career. 

Unplanned pregnancies are common in the United States. According to Dr. Adrienne Bonham in The Shriver Report, about half aren’t planned. Having a child unexpectedly can be frightening for new parents; raising a child requires attention, money and a whole lot of emotional, mental and physical stability. Even couples who plan to have kids feel unprepared. 

Aside from recovering from the physical stress of labor, mothers have to dedicate their entire lives to this new person. Fathers, too, ought to give their undivided attention to this new life they’ve brought into the world. In fact, these all-consuming obligations attached to parenthood have turned people away from having children.

There are students in your classes, walking around the Compass, sitting in the booth next to you doing the impossible: parenting. It’s eye-opening to know there are people my age who aren’t worried about their next party or social event, and instead interested in a whole other life. I cannot even begin to describe the utter respect I have for these individuals — not to mention how trivial and miniscule my problems feel in comparison. 

If you think student pregnancies are rare, think again. More than 4.8 million undergraduate students are parents. Millions are advancing their lives with higher education while raising another person. 

I believe these resilient individuals deserve all the praise we can garner, but I guess my opinion is a minority view. College students struck with those two blue lines are disrespected by family, friends, institutions — everyone. Students who become pregnant have to deal with the social consequences of parenthood. Friends start to care less and less, especially on a Saturday night when the entire premise for the weekend is a night out drinking. Family might give a cold shoulder if the pregnancy goes against their morals.

Another hurdle pregnant students face comes from the university itself. While Student Health Services is a phenomenal tool paid for by a mandatory fee — providing things ranging from general consultations to nutritionists — it doesn’t offer any form of prenatal care.

Although pregnant students continue to pay the Student Health fee, they miss out on the valuable service their money ought to go toward. 

Prenatal care is essential to ensure a healthy pregnancy and an even healthier baby, but it’s ridiculously expensive. Without health insurance, the average cost of prenatal care is $2,000. I don’t know about you guys, but I, as a broke college student, don’t have $2,000 laying around.  

University Student Health Services provides pregnant students with referrals to different clinics and practices, but Medical Director of University Student Health Services Margaret Roberson told The Commonwealth Times prenatal care is “not in their scope of practice.” If VCU believes pregnant students are so rare, then it shouldn’t be too worried about wasting its money on making prenatal care a part of their “scope of practice.” 

Pregnant on Campus, an online resource for students with kids, lists more than 50 adoption agencies, however, it doesn’t list any VCU-affiliated prenatal service. I will give the university some credit. I mean, after all, it provides daycare for VCU affiliates at the Child Development Center on Floyd Avenue for $1,150 per month. 

With all these unexpected financial burdens and emotional boulders, it’s hard to expect students to continue studying at VCU, or anywhere for that matter. Not to mention the judgmental looks professors give pregnant or parenting students who dare ask for extensions. Fewer than one in 10 students with children complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of college entry. This reveals that students who get pregnant while in college run a higher risk of dropping out. 

Premarital pregnancies are often frowned upon, especially when it comes to college students. I can’t begin to understand the struggle a pregnant college student has to go through. The constant shaming, body dysmorphia, the stress of what’s to come. At VCU, pregnant students not only have to deal with the social destruction and emotional instability, but they also have to take care of their own medical and prenatal bills, as well as covering the Health Services fee. 

Pregnant students and soon-to-be parents deserve more attention and care than VCU has provided. Those unexpected two blue lines may have shaken these parents’ lives, but the financial burden of health and child care could rattle their chances of graduating. 

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