A series on Sexuality: Baby Steps
As a pregnant student, Sarah Nguyen believed she was no different from anyone else.
"I never thought they (the university) would help me," she said. "I thought I was just another student."
Nguyen, who was a general studies sophomore, is not the only one who felt this way. Jessica Williams, A'11, was also pregnant last semester and had a similar view.
"The only difference was that I had a big belly," Williams said.
Though Nguyen and Williams shared similar feelings, university officials said there are resources available for pregnant students.
Student Affairs committee focuses on struggling students
The Care and Concern Committee is a Student Affairs committee comprised of representatives from Residential Life, University Police, University Counseling Center, Student Health, University Ministry and the Women's Resource Center. Members discuss ways to help students with issues that could prevent them from doing well at the university, including academic and social issues.
Robert Reed, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said the committee was created to collectively reach solutions for those students.
"As soon as a student in that situation came to our attention, then I'm sure they would come up and they would be added to the list of students we are concerned about," he said.
These students can include those who are pregnant.
"If the student lived in the residence halls, of course Residential Life would be involved and I'm sure they would want to make sure the young woman was getting pre-natal care," Reed said.
Once a pregnant student notifies Student Affairs of her condition, Reed said they ask general questions such as: When are you expecting? Are you getting pre-natal care? Has that been arranged?
"We have to find out a lot more information before I can say, ‘This is what we're going to do, this is not what we're going to do,'" Reed said. "We, a Catholic, Jesuit university, support life, so we make arrangements and make sure that it is going to occur."
Reed said it is possible for pregnant students to take a medical withdrawal from classes in the middle of the semester to give birth. Some do not need to withdraw and give birth in the summer, then return in the fall, for instance. Others can take a medical withdrawal for a semester or even a year, depending on the situation.
"We're hoping that, as a general rule, the university community be open about assisting and supporting people in whatever situation they are in. We're hoping that information comes to us," he said.
But not all pregnant students will come forward to provide such information, possibly because they don't know it's an option.
"I wasn't in danger of failing any of my classes," Williams said. She also said this may have been a reason why she didn't seek help.
Loyola Life aims to assist pregnant students
Help wouldn't necessarily come from administrators. Loyola Life, a student organization that promotes a consistent ethic of life from conception until natural death, is one option available. Margaret Liederbach, economics junior, is a former co-president and current member of the organization.
"We find ourselves in a place between advocacy and activism," she said.
The organization hosted a forum in spring 2010, "What Would Loyola Do for You?" which addressed the university's resources for pregnant students.
The organization hopes to serve as a liaison for students to other resources. Liederbach said one of Loyola Life's long-term goals is to compile the university's resources for pregnant students, and include resources outside the university that conform to Jesuit ideals, such as Woman's New Life Center.
"They have a lot of resources for crisis pregnancy," she said. These resources include free pregnancy testing, counseling and limited free ultrasounds.
Loyola Life wants the university to provide more accommodations to students with children, which include high chairs and booster seats in the Orleans Room and on-campus parent housing, Liederbach said.
University departments offer various resources
Student Health Services is another place students can go. They offer pregnancy testing, well-woman exams, prescriptions for pre-natal vitamins and referrals to OB-GYN specialists for prenatal care.
"And we also provide education on smoking cessation, alcohol and drug cessation and medications to avoid," said Alicia Bourque, director of Counseling and Health Services.
Student Health provides student health insurance, which covers pregnancy, Bourque said, but only one person in the past three years—the wife of a student—used it.
Bourque said the Counseling Center offers "supportive counseling related to the adjustment, emotional processing, problem solving around parenting and referrals to parenting classes."
"If students are considering adoption, we'll assist them with referrals, as well," she said.
Another resource is the Whelan Children's Center in Mercy Hall, a daycare that gives priority to the Loyola community—faculty, staff and students are in the first tier. However, space is limited and the center's waiting list usually has about 100 names.
Karen Reichard, Women's Resource Center director, acknowledged the Whelan Center, but said for some students, that option is not financially feasible. Regardless, the university wants to help, she said.
Reichard said the Women's Resource Center acts as a voice for advocacy, University Ministry caters to emotional and spiritual needs, Student Health and the Counseling Center are resources for mental and physical needs and Financial Aid will help students with financial issues.
"There's a wide network for students to tap into," she said.
Despite advertising efforts, Reichard said she does not know why students don't know about these resources.
"We advertise, we have interns, we have a website," she said. "I can't tell you why students don't know the resources we have."
Bourque said she believes this could be due to students having outside resources, and they may not need to use the ones offered by the university.
"They might have their own OB-GYN. They might find support in their friends and family and might not need counseling," she said.
Reichard said she encourages students to talk to her.
"I'm also always open to any student who wants to have a conversation about it," she said.
Nguyen was a commuter and said she believes her situation would have been different if she lived on campus.
"I probably would have tried to find help," she said.
Williams, who also was a commuter, agreed.
"I would have been in the know more," she said, if she lived on campus.
Both Nguyen and Williams gave birth this past summer. Nguyen said she plans to return to Loyola in the spring.
Precious Esie can be reached at
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