Missouri State University

Pregnant Student-Athlete Policy

Introduction

With increasing numbers of women participating in sports, there are more women who become pregnant while playing intercollegiate sports.  The purpose of this policy is to develop guidelines to protect the health, confidentiality, scholarship and ability of the pregnant student-athlete to participate while also assisting medical providers, coaches and administrators with uniform guidelines that address this issue.

What if you are a male athlete whose partner becomes pregnant?

While male student-athletes are not affected physically by pregnancy like female student-athletes, they can have stress over the pregnancy and worry about their pregnant partner and her fetus.  Male student-athletes may question whether they are ready for fatherhood and the personal and financial obligations associated with pregnancy.  We encourage you to discuss these issues with your partner and healthcare providers at the Missouri State Counseling and Testing Center, team physician or an Athletic Trainer.

Medical Issues

Although there are few studies related to intense strenuous physical activity in pregnant student-athletes, there are published guidelines that address this issue.  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Committee Opinion January 2002 and the NCAA Guideline 3b Participation by the Pregnant Student-Athlete June 2008 offer guidelines for the obstetric and team physicians to use in determining participation.  Some of the guidelines are below.

Exercise During Pregnancy

Assessing the risk of intense, strenuous physical activity in pregnancy is difficult. There is some evidence that women who exercise during pregnancy have improved cardiovascular function, limited weight gain and fat retention, improved attitude and mental state, easier and less complicated labor, and enhanced postpartum recovery. There is no evidence that increased activity increases the risk of spontaneous abortion in uncomplicated pregnancies. There are, however, theoretical risks to the fetus associated with increased core body temperatures that may occur with exercise, especially in the heat.

  • The fetus may benefit from exercise during pregnancy in several ways, including an increased tolerance for the physiologic stresses of late pregnancy, labor and delivery.
  • The safety of participation in individual sports by a pregnant woman should be dictated by the movements and physical demands required to compete in that sport and the previous activity level of the individual. The American College of Sports Medicine discourages heavy weight lifting or similar activities that require straining or valsalva.
  • Exercise in the supine position after the first trimester may cause venous obstruction and conditioning or training exercises in this position should be avoided.
  • Sports with increased incidences of bodily contact (basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and rugby) or falling (gymnastics, equestrian, downhill skiing) are generally considered higher risk after the first trimester because of the potential risk of abdominal trauma. The student-athlete's ability to compete may also be compromised due to changes in physiologic capacity and musculoskeletal issues unique to pregnancy. There is also concern that in the setting of intense competition a pregnant athlete will be less likely to respond to internal cues to moderate exercise and may feel pressure not to let down the team.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that competitive athletes can remain active during pregnancy but need to modify their activity as medically indicated and require close supervision.

If a student-athlete chooses to compete while pregnant they should:

  • Be made aware of the potential risks of their particular sport and exercise in general while pregnant;
  • Be encouraged to discontinue exercise when feeling over-exerted or when any of the following warning signs are present: vaginal bleeding, shortness of breath before exercise, dizziness, headache, chest pain, calf pain or swelling, pre-term labor, decreased fetal movement, amniotic fluid leakage, muscle weakness;
  • Follow the recommendations of their obstetrical provider in coordination with the team physician; and
  • Take care to remain well-hydrated and to avoid over-heating

After delivery or pregnancy termination, medical clearance is recommended to ensure the student-athlete's safe return to athletics. The physiologic changes of pregnancy persist four to six weeks postpartum, however, there have been no known maternal complications from resumption of training. Care should be taken to individualize return to practice and competition.

Medical issues related to participation should be discussed and a plan for participation may be created.  Participation by the pregnant student-athlete will require approval from the obstetrician and the team physician.  Following delivery or pregnancy termination, medical clearance is required to ensure the student-athlete's safe return to athletics.

Pregnancy Policies

Pregnancy places unique challenges on the student-athlete. MSU/Athletic Training Staff, in compliance with the NCAA guidelines, has developed a policy clearly outlining the rights and responsibilities of the pregnant student-athlete. Please be aware of the following:

  • The student-athlete may receive confidential counseling. This can be done through the guidance office on campus or the student-athlete can be referred to someone off campus. Please note that any cost for going off campus is the responsibility of the student-athlete. 
  • The student-athlete may receive access to timely medical and obstetrical care. This can be done at student-health services, through our team physician and his staff, or with the student-athlete's personal physician.
  • For the medical safety of the student-athlete and the unborn child, MSU/Athletic Training staff and its team physician request that the student-athlete notifies the athletic trainer assigned to her team as well as the team physician immediately upon learning of the pregnancy.
  • The athletics department insurance does not cover pregnancy related care. All costs related to pregnancy are the responsibility of the student-athlete.
  • NCAA Bylaw 15.3.4.1 states "institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability may be reduced or canceled during the period of the award if the recipient…voluntarily withdraws from a sport at any time for personal reasons…" Pregnancy is considered a temporary medical condition and Bylaw 14.2.1.3 in the NCAA Division I Manual states that a member institution may approve a one-year extension of the five-year period of eligibility for a female student-athlete for reasons of pregnancy.  If you are pregnant and you inform your athletic trainer and coach and you do NOT voluntarily withdraw from your sport, your scholarship will remain in place for the remainder of the granting year, July 1-June 30.  Your coach can help you discuss your situation with the athletics department.
  • A student-athlete with a temporary medical condition is still expected to complete all academic tasks to the best of his/her ability along with other student-athlete obligations.  If he/she fails to meet academic and other obligations on a consistent basis, the athletic department and the student-athlete will enter into a contract outlining the responsibilities and expectations of the student-athlete for the renewal of athletics aid the following year.

Student-athletes shall not be forced to terminate a pregnancy for any reason and no one shall use financial or psychological pressure to encourage a student-athlete to terminate a pregnancy. 

The team's certified athletic trainer or team physician is often approached in confidence by the student-athlete. The sports medicine staff should be well-versed in the athletics department's policies and be able to access the identified resources. The sports medicine staff should respect the student-athlete's requests for confidentiality until such time when there is medical reason to withhold the student-athlete from competition.

Policy for Missouri State University Student-Athlete Handbook

Student-Athletes and Pregnancy

If you become pregnant:  If you become pregnant while participating on an intercollegiate team at Missouri State University we want you to know we have a policy designed to help you.  First, we encourage you to discuss your pregnancy and related health concerns with your private physician, a team physician, or a physician at the Taylor Health and Wellness on campus. We also encourage you to tell your athletic trainer as soon as you learn you are pregnant.  If you have seen a healthcare provider for diagnosis of pregnancy, you should be aware that you are protected by confidentiality and they cannot inform anyone else of your pregnancy without your permission.  If athletic trainers are informed, they will also keep this information confidential unless you give them permission to do otherwise. 

Pregnancy in a student-athlete can be a challenging event and we want to protect your physical and mental health and that of your fetus while you consider your options.  We suggest you do not withdraw from your sport before talking to someone as this can result in the loss of scholarship.

NCAA Bylaw 15.3.4.1 states:

"Institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability may be reduced or canceled during the period of the award if the recipient…voluntarily withdraws from a sport at any time for personal reasons…"

Pregnancy is considered a temporary medical condition and Bylaw 14.2.1.3 in the NCAA Division I Manual states:

Pregnancy Exception.  A member institution may approve a one-year extension of the five-year period of eligibility for a female student-athlete for reasons of pregnancy.

What happens to your scholarship:  If you are pregnant and you inform your athletic trainer and coach and you do NOT voluntarily withdraw from your sport, your scholarship will remain in place for the remainder of the granting year, July 1-June 30.  Your coach can help you discuss your situation with the athletics department.

What about medical coverage?  The Athletic Department does not cover medical service costs related to the care of pregnancy.

Where to go for help:  Your athletic trainer or coach will refer you to counseling and healthcare providers outside the Athletics Department.  Remember, your athletic trainers and coaches are obligated to keep your pregnancy confidential unless you specifically give them permission to share that information.  If you choose not to tell your athletic trainer or coach, below is a list of resources to assist you.  You can be seen for pregnancy testing, referral and counseling at the Taylor Heath and Wellness Center.  Healthcare providers there can also help you discuss your pregnancy with your athletic trainer and coach if you choose to do so.

Ivan Milton, Director of Athletic Training 417-836-5461
Robin Meeks, Assistant Director of Athletic Training 417-836-5461
Steve Sawchak,   Athletic Trainer 417-836-5461
Shannon Derricks,  Athletic Trainer 417-836-5461
Jim Penkalski,   Athletic Trainer 417-836-5461
Amy Luke, Athletic Trainer 417-836-5461
Dr. Brian Mahaffey, MSU Team Physician 417-836-5461
Taylor Health and Wellness Center 417-836-4000
Counseling and Testing Center 417-836-5116
Pregnancy Care Center 417-887-0800
Birthright 417-865-3430