Nicole Jedrzejko / The Silhouette

 

Pregnant (adjective): [1] (of a woman or female animal) having a child or young developing in the uterus, [2] full of meaning; significant or suggestive. Origin: late Middle English from Latin praegnant-, from prae ‘before’ + the base of gnasci ‘be born.’

 

For so many of our peers, this word carries the most uncertainty and fear, and definitely lives up to its definition: full of meaning. As young adults, we are being faced with the frustrating reality that the prime childbearing years are also prime working years, in which most of us are focused on school and career prospects in the preparation for our future selves. More than a third of university-educated women today are having their first child when older than 30 years, another issue entirely when our fecundability (the probability of achieving pregnancy in one menstrual cycle) begins declining in the mid-20s, drops significantly in the early 30s, and plummets by approximately 37. Even with future fertility in question, it is still unthinkable by many in our university culture to consider pregnancy before graduation, as the decision to reproduce is seen as a huge burden on one’s ability to survive and prosper. Financial struggles, impact on education and career, cultural and religious restrictions, inconveniences to current lifestyles, terror of such huge responsibilities, and many other personal reasons have changed pregnancy from a simple change in the body’s reproductive state to the severity level of disease.

 

But contrary to popular opinion, pregnancy pre-graduation is manageable. There are an overwhelming amount of educational resources on pregnancy, but the most important first steps can be summarized into these six points:

 

  1. Go to the experts: See your doctor or visit the Student Wellness Centre as soon as you find out (or suspect) you are pregnant to begin planning. They will have the best information on your options.
  2. Eat well: If there’s ever a time to watch what you eat, it’s now. A well-balanced diet in accordance with Canada’s Food Guide is optimal, but consider taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements (i.e., fish oil pills) and folic acid supplements for their beneficial effects on the baby’s birth weight and nervous system development. Food hygiene is also very important to avoid spoilt food’s serious effects in newborns.
  3. Exercise: Keeping up your strength and endurance is difficult enough in university, but exercising during pregnancy not only helps to manage weight gain, but can ward off depression. Walking, swimming, yoga, and Aqua Zumba are all recommended…and available in our David Braley Athletic Centre. Also consider pelvis floor exercises to strengthen the hammock muscles at the base of the pelvis that support bladder, vagina, and rectum. Get more information from your prenatal instructor.
  4. CUT alcohol, cut back on caffeine: More than two alcoholic drinks a day may lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), resulting in mental and growth retardation, behavioural problems, and physical defects. Cutting alcohol altogether during pregnancy is obvious, but caffeine in coffee, tea, and soft drinks may also contribute to a risk of low birth weight or miscarriage. Err on the side of caution and cut it down.
  5. Stop smoking: The Student Wellness Centre’s ‘Leave The Pack Behind’ initiative is a peer-run service that provides information on how to quit smoking, provide support and resources, and more. The risks of smoking during pregnancy are incredibly high, so use these resources available to feel supported.
  6. Rest: Fatigue is normal during pregnancy, and though rest is often an unappreciated luxury in busy university lives, both you and your baby will benefit greatly from taking well-deserved breaks. Good night’s sleeps, naps, and relaxation techniques from yoga to massage will all help manage your stress and focus on your body’s needs.

 

Campus services from the Student Wellness Centre, SHEC, and faculty academic counselors can provide additional resources to help manage pregnancy concerns, but there is a significant lack of support from one of the most powerful forces on this campus: our peers. Dealing with pregnancy, unwanted or not, carries enough pressure to deal with from partners and parents to involve additional prejudices from peers. So often people dealing with such tough experiences do not need our sympathy or pity, but a realization that they are not alone. Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, as do families. Whichever option you choose to manage your pregnancy is the right one for you. No one has the right to say otherwise, and everyone has the responsibility of respecting your options. It is also up to us all to make our campus a place where a woman’s decision over her reproductive state is respected.

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