When University of Colorado student Erin McGeever found out she was pregnant, she didn't know where on campus to turn for support.
And when her academic adviser said the only two resources on campus for pregnant students were Counseling and Psychological Services, and Victim's Assistance, she was surprised.
McGeever was happy, she said, and didn't feel like she needed counseling. She just wanted encouragement from girls who have been in a similar situation.
After her experience as a pregnant student on campus, McGeever is founding the student group Smart Moms at CU, which will be active starting this fall. The paperwork for Smart Moms at CU was officially filed on Thursday. McGeever wants to offer support to pregnant students and student mothers that she did not have while pregnant.
"Every woman should be independent and successful," McGeever said. "I decided to provide these resources so others wouldn't have to feel what I felt."
McGeever, a 21-year-old biology major, was shocked when she found out she was pregnant last August. She had been diagnosed at 18 with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disease that often causes infertility. To cope, McGeever picked out baby names for a child she thought she would never have.
Yet three years later, she would give birth to daughter Nora on Jan. 9. She recalls not knowing "how to handle" the butterflies in her stomach after learning she was pregnant. McGeever was "sad and depressed" at school because she couldn't find support outside of her family.
Now, to spend more time with nearly 4-month-old Nora, McGeever is taking the spring semester off.
During her pregnancy, McGeever found herself paying to park on campus because she was afraid to take the bus while pregnant. She didn't want to tell her teachers because of what they might think, she said. She also found that she couldn't fit into the desks with built-in chair on campus.
Finals were even more difficult that usual, with Nora due less than a month after the end of her exams. These hardships, on top of pregnancy and school, made life more difficult for McGeever.
"I had no one to lean on except myself and my family at home," McGeever said.
McGeever believes she could have had an easier time with school if she had more resources available to her. To bring much-needed support to other pregnant students across the country, McGeever launched the non-profit Smart Moms in College in March. The group will provide assistance, including tutoring and childcare, that might not be provided by other schools.
In the future, McGeever hopes the group can also offer services to dads in college. However, because of her small amount of resources, she will focus primarily on moms.
"Women have the most burden in pregnancy, so I wanted to focus on them," McGeever said.
McGeever hopes to have some group meetings, including coffee, play dates and clothing swaps, over the summer to get Smart Moms started. She will go back to school in the fall and is expected to graduate in December 2014.
There are three lactation rooms on campus available for students that are breastfeeding. Amanda Linsenmeyer, Director of the Women's ResourceCenter, noted that there is a childcare center, the Children's Center, on campus.Linsenmeyer said that while the center offers pregnancy tests for students, itdoesn't have many other resources directed to health needs.
"We don't have psychological or health services for any population, whether they're pregnant or not," Linsenmeyer said.
CU's Wardenburg Health Center is not equipped to offer obstetrics and does not treat dependents, according to Wardenburg marketing coordinator Heather Volkel. However, depending on a student's insurance, Volkel said, Wardenburg works with students to refer them to a doctor in the community.
Counseling and Psychological Services could not be reached for comment.
Pregnant students or students with children can access support through Boulder County Public Health's services. Most programs are based on income, and many students might fall under eligibility, according to Chana Goussetis at BCPH.