Sample Thesis on The Effects of Pregnancy on College Students

The Effects of Pregnancy on College Students


Pregnancy among college students is a subject of intense debate globally due to the challenges associated with the matter. Society finds it hard to keep silent about issues related to the birth and rearing of children, especially when the involved parents are young. More than one million unplanned pregnancies happen to single women in their 20s, a population that includes many college students. College pregnancy, which is mostly unwanted, leads to a high number of single parents with financial constraints, interrupted learning, unstable relationships, and various tough educational, health, and social impacts for their young ones (The National Campaign, 2015).

The main concern is the far-reaching impacts of pre-marital motherhood. Young mothers and their infants may face various problems. A research carried out in the United States showed that young individuals are at a higher risk of serious medical complications, for example, low birth weight and poorer outcomes, compared to older mothers and their infants (Fedorowicz, Hellerstedt, Schreiner, & Bolland, 2014). Student motherhood is a common phenomenon; however, the challenge is becoming a mother while still learning and depending on guardians for sustenance.

In most instances, people believe that the college pregnancy issue only affects involved students. Nonetheless, individuals should understand that the babies delivered and the young mothers’ immediate families are also affected (Florescu, Temneanu, & Mindru, 2016). The intensity of college pregnancy, especially among teenagers, makes some experts feel that healthcare professionals should feel obliged to conduct numerous studies to develop a definitive solution for the health concern. This problem is also associated with other consequences such as young mothers earning low monthly incomes, unlike other individuals in similar occupations. Most employers take advantage of young mothers’ difficult situation of meeting their children’s basic needs (Sadler, Novick, & Meadows-Oliver, 2016). Overall, a significant percentage of young mothers in college experience financial limitations in the process of raising their children (Lang & Weinstein, 2015). Nonetheless, various organizations and governments have established different programs, for instance, welfares, aimed at supporting this population financially. Most of the affected students also drop out of college due to their situation. In most cases, the victims experience societal pressures that push them to seek employment to raise their young ones (Sedgh, Finer, Bankole, Eilers, & Singh, 2015).

Student pregnancies and motherhood hinder the development and self-fulfillment of young mothers and their children worldwide. Besides, unplanned pregnancies and the responsibilities that accompany parenthood increase emotional and financial stress on the students involved, which can impede academic performance (Child and Family, 2017). Problems such as house rent and increased expenditure also make the completion of their education difficult.

In many cultures, the customary laws stress that children should not be born out of wedlock. However, communities have not strictly complied with this rule as illegitimacy appears to be a persistent problem in many societies (Barcelos & Gubrium, 2014). Institutions of higher learning endeavor to encourage the learners’ success and attainment of their academic goals. Consequently, several colleges help students to defer pregnancy and early parenting, which is a significant move in preventing factors that interfere with their education (The National Campaign, 2015). The colleges have also established strategies to provide student parents with incomes to enable them to stay in the learning institutions. Furthermore, they offer students the knowledge and guidelines to avoid unintended pregnancy or help those who are already parents to manage the situation and focus on their education (Nkosi, Makhene, & Matlala, 2019). Nevertheless, some of the higher education institutions do not address the issue of pregnancy planning and prevention. Therefore, to fill this gap, the education sector should avail resources to institutions of higher learning to assist students to improve their knowledge, attitude, and behavioral intent with regard to averting unintended pregnancy.

The Aim of the Study

The primary aim of this study is to examine the effects of unplanned pregnancy on college students. The study is supported by the assumption that pregnancy is an experience that transforms women.

Research Question

What are the effects of unplanned pregnancy on college students?

The Significance of the Study

The study findings are significant to student affairs experts, counselors, and learning institutions. Student affairs specialists can use the results to understand the needs of college women facing an unplanned pregnancy. Colleges will also realize the need for childcare and associated support services for the affected students. By knowing the impacts of unplanned pregnancy, educators will direct, help, or prepare students for unseen consequences of pregnancy.

Limitations of the Study

The short duration spent with the respondents could have limited the level of trust developed between the participants and the researcher. The participants may not have developed enough confidence to share all of the detail requested concerning their experience with the unplanned pregnancy.

Organization of the Study

This research is organized around four chapters. The first chapter introduces the study and illustrates the issue to be examined, the purpose of the study, the research questions, and the implications of the study. Chapter two describes the methodology for the study, including the sampling method, instruments, and the process followed to collect data. Chapter three provides the results, and chapter four explains the findings and their implications for future practice and research.

College Response to Unplanned Pregnancy

It is hard to determine how American colleges manage unplanned pregnancies. The reason is that the subject has been disregarded in higher education literature (Hendry et al., 2016). Many institutions have health facilities with birth control and pregnancy tests. Besides, counseling centers are availed to learners to enable them to handle difficult situations (Klettke, Hallford, & Mellor, 2014). Students with pregnancy issues are counseled regarding their choices and offered information about where to get the specific health care they require. Students are told the outside resources that can assist them.

However, studies have highlighted a vital role that colleges can unintentionally play in a pregnant college woman’s life. While the institutions may offer health and psychological assistance for women who become pregnant, the colleges’ climate hinders these women from looking for help (Kappe, 2016). Research poses the question of whether colleges provide adequate psychological counseling to tackle the challenges that college women undergo during pregnancy (reference). Scholars propose that assisting women with unplanned pregnancy issues involves changing the college climate. An environment that does not ignore a pregnant student can be more effective in nurturing a healthy and mature person.

Causes of Pregnancy Among College Students

Whereas society has progressed in terms of education and technology with aspects such as contraceptive methods being promoted openly through various media, the reality is that pregnancy among college students is still an issue that affects both the United States and the world at large. In a study conducted by Fedorowicz et al. (2014), the rate of childbirth is high, with about 750,000 women younger than 20 years of age becoming pregnant annually. Numerous underlying factors contribute to pregnancy among college students.

The primary factor that promotes pregnancy among college students is environmental influence such as peer pressure and family history (Smith, Strohschein, & Crosnoe, 2018). College associations are essential avenues of acquiring information, concepts, and practices that may be causative to inappropriate behavioral models for students. According to Albany and Albany (2015), direct and indirect contact with numerous associations exposes college students, especially teenagers, to a variety of acceptable or unacceptable behavioral patterns. The authors further determined that the definition of acceptable and unacceptable conduct is established through several supports that are positive or negative.  Positive underpinning enhances the possibility of the same behavior through pleasing effects and rewards. On the other hand, negative reinforcements attempt to decrease behavioral incidences through chastisement and harsh negative outcomes (Wang et al. 2015). Therefore, as students interact with friends, they observe and embrace their actions and character depictions. Eventually, they tend to emulate the models they become familiar with. In most instances, peer pressure can wield a substantive amount of stress on college students, making them engage in activities their colleagues may be actively involved in (Diaz & Fiel, 2015). For instance, peers speak about the pleasure and satisfaction in sexual involvement, even though they have no real-life experience regarding life after an unintended pregnancy. Moreover, college students suffering from low self-esteem and rejection can easily be induced to engage in sex, which results in an unplanned pregnancy. Unfortunately, both characters do not understand the repercussion of sexual actions.

Unintended pregnancy has become a reality for the majority of college women. Despite the fact that enrolling in learning institutions reduces the chances of college learners conceiving, the students are involved in sexual behaviors without contraceptives or not utilizing them properly (Omar & Merrick, 2015). Research conducted on college women who sought a pregnancy test at a health facility discovered that a large number of the learners did not use contraceptives (Thongnopakun, Pumpaibool, & Somrongthong, 2018). Consequently, most of them experienced an unplanned pregnancies. Anyanwu, Ter Goon, and Tugli’s (2013) research show that among sexually active individuals, 73.77% (sexually active males) used condoms in their last sexual intercourse, while 64.05 (sexually active females) did not use the contraceptive. The results are illustrated in figure 1.

Figure 1. The rate of condom use at last sexual intercourse

Source (Anyanwu et al., 2013).

Little information exists on the experience of unplanned pregnancy among college women. However, several researchers have explored the possibility of pregnancy based on age and education. According to Nelson and Kakaiya (2016), college enrollment and educational achievement negatively impact the chances of pregnancy among women. Nevertheless, this effect decreases with age. This finding implies that pregnancy among traditionally aged college women is deferred or happens less often compared with older learned women or younger uneducated females.



The sample was selected from a population that comprised women between 18 and 25 years who experienced an unplanned pregnancy when in college. To meet the inclusion standard, the participants had to be between 18 and 22 years when they became pregnant. Second, the pregnancy in college needed to have been their first pregnancy experience. Also, the end of their pregnancy should have been at least six months, but not over three years before data collection happened. The respondents were also supposed to be unmarried during conception, and those who were pregnant at the time of research were not qualified. The respondents were asked about their present age, previous pregnancy experience, age at the time of pregnancy, college enrollment condition during pregnancy, and marital status at the time they conceived.

Instrumentation and Data Collection

A semi-structured interview method was employed in this research. The procedure entailed broad questions concerning the impacts the unplanned pregnancy had on women in college. The women were motivated to discuss the influences of the pregnancy on their lives. Impacts on their academic, social, and family lives were also noted. The women were asked about what enabled them to manage their pregnancy, and the type of difficulties they experienced. The interview questions were developed to answer the study question. The interviews with the participants lasted for two hours, and all interviews were audiotaped with the participant’s permission. The participants were identified only by their nicknames during the interviews for confidentiality. The same strategy was used during the data collection and analysis process.


This section contains the results of the research about the effects of an unplanned pregnancy as recorded by 10 college women interviewed. The effects included physical signs exhibited during pregnancy, emotional distress, inability to make decisions, personalization of pregnancy, and partner blaming.  Physical symptoms refer to bodily reactions that women had in early pregnancy. The participants had clear physical signs, for example, abdominal contractions, stomachache, morning sickness, alterations in eating habits, increased weight, and mood swings.

Emotional distress denotes the psychological challenges caused by pregnancy. The women were distressed after realizing they were pregnant. They became overwhelmed, horrified, scary, and stressed. The indecision aspect referred to the impacts experienced that entailed decisions that were to be made with regard to the pregnancy, as well as its outcome. The majority of the women became confused and did not know what to do. Many of them struggled with deciding on the outcome of the pregnancy

Partner blaming applies to the effects relating to the sexual partner. Pregnancy led to stress on the participants’ relationships with their partners. Most of the women mentioned that they fought about the issue and were also frustrated by their partners’ responses regarding pregnancy as they did not receive emotional support from them. Pregnancy also negatively influenced the participants’ academic performance. Many of them found it hard to attend classes and could not concentrate. Consequently, they recorded low grades in their courses.

Discussion and Conclusion

Evidence proves that the problem of pregnancy among college students should be addressed to prevent the negative effects associated with the issue. The information derived from different studies shows that college women experience many complications during pregnancy.  In this research, the majority of the participants stated that they faced many difficulties due to their inability to sustain the pregnancy.

The long-term impacts the participants stated were many, and they had to handle the stress the unintended pregnancy caused internally. They believed that managing the stress on their own would make them emotionally stronger and help them concentrate on their future. The respondents also thought that their peers did not have the maturity required to address the issue. The experience made the women consider themselves greatly different from their peers.

The research was limited to 10 women who agreed to engage in the research. This small number limits the extent the findings can be generalized. Throughout the research, the women stressed their disappointment in their peers ‘attitudes, as well as members of the college community. Most of the women stated that other members of the college community could have assisted them to handle their unplanned pregnancy. The women suggested the need to help other students experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in college.  Sexuality programs can greatly enhance women’s health and status. This initiative can enable the students to complete their studies, obtain well-paying jobs, and make informed marital decisions and other choices. The findings from this study can spur further research into attrition rates of college women who experience pregnancy problems such as abortion and complicated childbirth.


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