Bumps, Babies and Books

A sometimes-daunting thought that springs to mind in relation to students today, Features Editor Leanne Waters looks at pregnancy in the university sphere In most women’s lives, there is always that inevitable moment – be it precious or stomach churning – when you discover you are pregnant. Depending on time and circumstance, said moment can produce one of two feelings; the first – in all its glory – encompasses joy, awe, relief and irrevocable excitement. Oh, to live in an ideal world. The second, however, manifests itself in a manner slightly more akin to, let’s say, a university student whose thoughts were initially focused on what they would wear this weekend, rather than on what their current trimester may be.An unplanned pregnancy is, more often than not, a truly scary time for students. In a generation that is undeniably sexually active, it is a concept that dwells at the very forefront of student fears.Yet despite the presence of this often-terrifying thought, believe it or not, there are options available to students who may find themselves in a less than convenient situation. One option when faced with this predicament comes in the form of the Crisis Pregnancy Ireland organisation.  The aforementioned programme (formerly the Crisis Pregnancy Agency) is tasked with developing and implementing a national strategy to address the issue of crisis pregnancy in Ireland.  A crisis pregnancy is defined as ‘a pregnancy which is neither planned nor desired by the woman concerned, and which represents a personal crisis for her’.But despite the outlets that are available to students, an unplanned pregnancy can undoubtedly still spark an initial panic so profound that even the very best of us could not cope with this situation. So is it possible to sustain one’s education and future career at a satisfactory level, as well as prove to be a good parent? Programmes and Communications Officer of Crisis Pregnancy Ireland, Lorna Farren, explains why she believes so. “The message of the Positive Options campaign is that ‘An unplanned pregnancy is not the end of the world’.”Farren continues: “Many people facing an unplanned pregnancy initially feel shock, upset or a range of conflicting emotions, but people do move on from the crisis. For those who choose to parent, Treoir have published a booklet entitled ‘Information for Young Parents in Education’, which provides details on rights and entitlements to help people to continue their education and go onto build a successful career, while balancing the demands of parenthood.”Moreover, it seems that despite popular belief, it is certainly a realistic concept to maintain one’s education and raise a child. UCD itself, for example, offers support to students in one major form. Not very well known and hidden away near the Clonskeagh entrance to campus, there exists the UCD Oakmount Crèche. A daycare centre that offers a wide range of classes and facilities, the Oakmount Crèche ethos is “to treat each child with the utmost respect. Each child is valued as an individual and is encouraged to reach his/her own maximum potential at his/her own pace.”Such words of support and organisations like those mentioned above certainly provide an aid and somewhat of a crutch for those who are struggling with difficult decisions. Despite this, the considerable fear felt at the moment of realisation for students, still seems too powerful to quell.Second-year Business and Law student Orla Shanagher talks to The University Observer about why she believes it is such a daunting prospect for students. “ I think it’s the thought that your life is set in stone from then on. I think, as students, we like not knowing what will happen in the future. You know that you will never be able to go travelling or really live the life that you always thought you would have. There is also the fear that you may not be able to finish college and that you might be forced to drop out.”Evidently, crisis pregnancies are not uncommon occurrences within Irish society, or within the student body. According to statistics published by positiveoptions.ie, 28 per cent of women who had experienced pregnancy reported experiencing crisis pregnancy. Moreover, the mean age of crisis pregnancy in men and women was from 23-24 years.One aspect of the circumstances that Farren certainly seems to emphasise is that any person facing a crisis pregnancy is never without choice. “These services provide a space for people to talk through their feelings surrounding the pregnancy, the opportunity to discuss their choices and also practical information on rights and entitlements, as well as the supports available if you’re in education.”To avail of crisis pregnancy services, students can free text the word LIST to 50444 or visit www.positiveoptions.ie to find a service in their area.