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Teesside student shares reasons for choosing to terminate pregnancy

A TEESSIDE student today discussed why she made the difficult decision to terminate her pregnancy after discovering that she had fallen pregnant within the first term of the academic year.

Fresher Jessica Guinness, 18, discovered she was pregnant just three weeks after being welcomed to Teesside University with her second year student boyfriend, Sam Welsh, 20.

Today she decided to discuss her situation in the hopes that she can help other students to open up about the subject of pregnancy at uni.

Jessica discusses how she feels regret for having her termination before being told that there were services available to her.

Jessica discusses how she feels regret for having her termination before being told that there were services available to her.

Jessica said: ‘I have a friend who was pregnant at 16; she was refused entry into sixth- form college because the school felt that she was sure to fail and I wasn’t in a position to change my life at such an important time.

‘Focusing on my studies is something I need to be doing right now, not looking after a baby. It can be hard enough to get a good degree and job without being a teenage mum.

“But I wasn’t prepared for how I feel now and how much I am struggling to come to terms with the decision I made so early on. It has been the hardest time of my life.”

After ranking at number eight out of 10 for the highest teen pregnancy rate in the UK, Middlesbrough is having a teen mum boom. But with support from peers and tutors, students will feel less alone.

Becoming pregnant at university and how best to support students through the experience has become a key issue for the National Student Union.

Out of a survey completed by 2,167 student parents, 639 (29%) of the respondents had fallen pregnant during their university studies. The NUS also found that 59% of prospective parents felt they had received little to no support from their university after delivering the news to a member of staff.

However, it is possible to balance motherhood and university life. Mum-of-three Dawn Ashley from Redcar, is a full- time mature student in BA(Hons) Dance, Dawn explained the support she gets to balance university and her demands at home.

She said: ‘Well it can be difficult sometimes, I have to go to parents’ evenings, dentist appointments, football commitments as well as making time to revise for my exams coming up; but it is doable.

‘My course is pretty full on but I get a lot of support from the uni financially because I can’t work anymore, which helps a lot. My tutors are also very supportive in terms of understanding the demands of being a parent as most of my lecturers are parents themselves.

‘I’m not just responsible for myself like the other students are, I want to set a good example for my children. I want to show them if mummy can get an education with a busy life, then they can too’.

Dawn Ashley with her family

Dawn: right, with her youngest son: far right, daughter left and eldest son: far left.

With the time of her ‘would- have- been’ due date fast approaching, Jessica says she now regrets the decision to go through with the medical abortion.

She feels that universities should be more proactive in making sure students know what their options are when they become pregnant and what support is available.

Jessica said: ‘I just took a couple of pills… and it was gone, if I knew that I could have had a baby and still study full- time, I would have a bigger stomach by now.

‘This past year has been really hard on me, not to mention my studies and revising for exams that are coming up. There wouldn’t be long to go now, about three more months and I’d have been a parent. I wish I’d asked for help to decide what to do.”

According to The Equality Challenge 2010 – a document formed to cohere with The Equality Act 2010 – ‘when a student informs her Higher Education Institution (HEI) that she is pregnant, it is important that she is not judged negatively or asked inappropriate questions’.

With legislation adhering to students wants and needs, students are automatically protected from discrimination during both pregnancy and maternity.

After speaking to Student Services here at Teesside, Joanne Towell, OSCAR Administrator of Law for the uni said: ‘There isn’t a clear maternity policy to uphold here at the university, although financial support along with information can be found on the university website regarding leave.

With legislation adhering to students wants and needs, scholars are automatically protected from discrimination during both pregnancy and maternity.

Having being told that she would have had options as a prospective student, Jessica is hopeful for other students that decide to become parents during their time at Teesside.

Examples of positive practices that NUS have publicly talked about include one woman who became pregnant whose lectures were all placed online so she could access them in the weeks after her baby had been born when she was unable to attend college. She also said her lecturers authorised absences during that time so her attendance targets were not affected.

Although there are pressures and stresses of being a prospective parent on its own, there are services that are available in the Teesside area to help students make an informed decision about their future.

For help and advice regarding sexual health and pregnancy:

There is a fortnightly sexual health advice clinic in the Well-being Centre, 2nd Floor, Brittan Building. Contact h.wright@tees.ac.uk for further details.

Or

Seek advice from The British Pregnancy Advisory Service – Click here for information

948 Words.

Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

 

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