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Pregnant college athletes have options

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Though the number of teen pregnancies in the U.S. has decreased in recent years, it's still extremely common. Statistics from 2009 shown that at least 410,000 females ages 15 to 19 gave birth in the U.S. that year. Roughly 1,100 teenagers give birth everyday, which costs taxpayers nearly $9 billion a year.

One place where pregnancy is rarely discussed is the sports world. Female college athletes becoming pregnant happens, but we rarely hear about it.

Some cases that have made news have been in the world of women's basketball. University of Southern California player Brynn Cameron gave birth in the spring of 2006 and sat out the following season. Syracuse's Fantasia Goodwin played while pregnant for nearly all of her first season there in 2007. Waltiea Rolle from the University of North Carolina missed the start of this season due to pregnancy. Each athlete has a different story, but all three returned to the court.

College athletes who discover they are pregnant have many decisions to make, including decisions that will affect their athletic future. Some choose to have abortions because they're afraid they will lose their scholarship. Others choose to have their babies.

In terms of scholarships, it is possible that pregnant athletes can lose theirs. Scholarships are renewed each year, and schools have a lot of flexibility on which ones to renew and not renew as long as they abide by Title IX, which prohibits unequal treatment due to gender.

Cameron was able to redshirt her missed season at USC, granting her another year of eligibility, and she also kept her scholarship, but that's not always the case. As of 2007, only 26 of more than 270 Division I schools had specific policies regarding pregnant female athletes.

If the player keeps her baby, it's important that she has a support system, like a coach or administrator she can discuss matters with. Many also turn to family. That's what Goodwin did, finding a family member to watch her baby while she returned to school to play basketball and graduate.

The most important thing for these athletes to remember is that they're not alone. In today's society, universities offer many support systems not only for athletes, but for all girls who become pregnant. Help is always there, whether in the form of a pregnancy helpline, a support group or guidance from a trusted adult. The safest sex is no sex, but sometimes mistakes happen. Though some athletes have made heartbreaking choices, like having an abortion, there have also been many female athletes who have succeeded after becoming pregnant. Whatever the decision, it's important for pregnant women -- whether they're college athletes or everyday girls -- to remember that they are never alone.


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