It is necessary for women in college to have accessible and safe healthcare information and services. They can protect themselves, make informed choices, and improve their quality of life. One of the crucial aspects of women’s care is reproductive health. When women obtain high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare services, they can make excellent decisions about their bodies and lives. The benefits also extend far beyond physical health choices, allowing women to develop and maintain mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.
In this guide, women in college will be able to learn more about the importance of reproductive health, the aspects of reproductive health that need attention, and the available services on and off-campus.
Why is Reproductive Health So Important for College Women?
Colleges and universities must provide comprehensive healthcare so that women can access crucial information and services promptly when necessary. Women in college need to prioritize their reproductive health for many different reasons.
College is a time of exploration and discovery for many young adults. They may form new friendships and relationships, become comfortable with their sexuality, and find their personal and sexual identity. These aspects of life can be exciting, and students need to know how to enjoy their sex life safely, promote good health, and strengthen sexual relationships. When they have access to knowledge and quality services, they can feel more empowered and confident in their decisions. In this way, they can grow and thrive in college, knowing they can make the right choices for themselves and their lives.
Whether college students engage in one or many sexual relationships, they need to know how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In particular, understanding safe sex, preventing STDs, and receiving proper medical treatment and care for STDs are critical. Young adults from 15 to 24 make up 50% of new STD infections annually, yet only 27% of sexually active women in the same age bracket receive testing yearly. If they do not know about safe sex methods, they may put themselves at risk for severe health problems. Likewise, if women do not know they can go for regular STD screenings, they may not realize they have an STD. Many STDs can go undetected for years before discovery. As a result, STDs pose a danger for women’s reproductive and overall health.
Unexpected pregnancies can also be a concern for college women. 50% of college students have an unexpected pregnancy, and 60% of abortions are from women in their 20’s. Women may not know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, know what to do when they become pregnant or receive appropriate care. These factors can pose risks for the woman, the pregnancy, and the woman’s future.
However, when they can make choices alongside understanding healthcare professionals, they can make beneficial decisions for their own lives. Naturally, part of making a good choice involves having options. Safe abortion services, appropriate maternity support, and education and career opportunities with either choice are all important aspects of comprehensive reproductive healthcare.
It is also crucial that women in college have the necessary support. Many academic institutions offer mental health services, financial aid, student accommodations, childcare services, and career counseling that could serve students facing unexpected pregnancies. Universities design these programs to help deter women from dropping out of college during pregnancy or after giving birth. 7% of college dropouts do so after the birth of a child, which prevention and assistance could lower substantially.
They also make it easier for women to return to college after having a child by providing accommodations. 44% of parents desire to return to college to learn something new, achieve their degree, or follow their passions. Likewise, 20% of women in college are single mothers trying to obtain a degree. Ultimately, this indicates schooling is essential to college students facing pregnancy, and options may allow them to accomplish their goals.
Safe Sex and Contraception
Students must know how to practice safe sex in college, ensuring protection for themselves and their sexual partners. Safe sex methods can reduce the spread of STDs in heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual relations and prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Many colleges provide ample information regarding safe sex methods. Healthcare providers on or off campus can help women decide which safe sex and contraception practices may be right for them and their partners. They may benefit from one or a combination of any of the following popular approaches:
Condoms are 98% effective for preventing unwanted pregnancy, and they are also an excellent choice for protecting against STDs. They provide an effective barrier from penile skin and fluids. However, since condoms do not cover the entire male genitalia area, they may not prevent STDs that can surround the penis. STDs that may evade its protection include herpes and genital warts.
Dental dams are a great choice if individuals perform oral sex on a vulva or anus. As they are thin pieces of latex, they create a barrier between the mouth and the genital region. They provide effective protection against many STDs spread orally.
Women in college should talk with their healthcare providers about birth control methods. There are many options, including birth control pills, birth control shots, birth control implants such as an IUD, birth control rings, and spermicide gel. Women may prefer one over the other, depending on their body and personal preferences. When women use birth control correctly, it can offer significant protection against pregnancy. However, they do not all protect against STDs, so women should use multiple methods of safe sex in college.
STDs/STIs – Getting the Care You Need
College students are one of the largest age groups to obtain STDs. For this reason, STI awareness, protection, testing, and treatment are critical for college women.
STDs in College Students
There are many different types of STDs/STIs. Unfortunately, many people may not know they have an STI and unknowingly pass it along to their sexual partners. They may also have symptoms of an STI without realizing it is an STI. College students need to know the most common STDS in college, statistics about STDs in college students, and their main symptoms.
Chlamydia is prevalent on college campuses, presenting in 9.7% of students. On average, young female students are more likely to have chlamydia than other groups of students. It can often have no symptoms, but women and men may notice abnormal discharge, a burning sensation when urinating, pain, or bleeding.
Statistics of STDs in college students are an indicator of which infections a college woman should screen for on a regular basis, especially if she has multiple partners. College-aged adults make up 42% of gonorrhea cases. Gonorrhea, similar to the other most common STDs in college, can display no symptoms. However, it can also present with painful urination, discharge, bleeding, and pain.
There are two types of herpes viruses, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 spreads orally, causing oral herpes and genital herpes. HSV-2 spreads through sexual contact, causing genital herpes. In terms of STDs in college students statistics, herpes may be one of the most prevalent diseases. 20% of American college students have herpes HSV-2. Individuals can experience mild or no symptoms, which contributes to its spread. There may be small bumps, blisters, pain, and itching or burning if there are symptoms.
HPV is increasingly a concern for college-aged women across the United States. Statistics on STDs in college students indicate that approximately 14% of women in college have genital HPV each year. Most people do not have symptoms of HPV, increasing the chance of transmission.
Trichomoniasis, or Trich, is a sexually transmitted parasite. It is one of the most common STDs in college student statistics in the United States, affecting approximately 2.6 million Americans at any given time. Some people do not have any symptoms, but most will notice discharge, pain, swelling, pain during urination, or pain during sex.
Sobering statistics on STDs in college students reveal that syphilis affects 156,000 people in the United States. It has a low rate on campus; however, it is still essential for college women to check or screen for syphilis. The primary symptom is a painless sore, followed by a rash. After this, there may not be any symptoms for months or years, while the disease can damage multiple organs and systems.
Statistics of STDs in college students show that women aged 13-24 account for a shocking percentage of HIV cases: approximately 12% in 2018. Although it is an STD, it can also spread through infected blood. HIV can cause flu-like symptoms, often within a few weeks of infection. Without treatment, HIV can lead to a life-threating condition, AIDS.
Testing and Treatment
Since the rate of STDs in college students is so high, it is vital for women in college to receive regular screenings from their healthcare providers. They may need to receive tests every three to twelve months. If health care providers catch these diseases early, they can treat or manage STDs better. They can also help prevent secondary damage to the body from STDs.
Three vaccinations can help prevent common STDs: HPV, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. American college students may already have Hepatitis A and B vaccinations, but women in college may wish to discuss the HPV vaccinations with their healthcare provider. It can help protect against dangerous strains of HPV, including those that cause cervical cancer.
Many women in college face an unexpected pregnancy at some point in their academic careers. In fact, this number may be as high as half of the women attending college. Women must have the option to decide whether they wish to keep their pregnancy or terminate their pregnancy. They should be able to receive adequate health care, support, and safe, accessible, and affordable options to be able to make this choice.
In 1973, the United States gave women the right to choose in the Roe v. Wade legal case. On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Due to this decision, many states have and will take away women’s right to choose abortion.
Since this is the case, abortion in college may not be available in every state. The barrier will prevent women from receiving accessible and safe healthcare and medical options. As a result, women will face physical, mental, emotional, social, and personal challenges, limits, and for many, life-threatening consequences.
In states banning or limiting abortion, it will become even more critical for students to know about safe sex, understand consent, and receive adequate care in cases of sexual assault, sexual coercion, rape, and domestic violence. It will be imperative for expecting mothers to obtain high-level pregnancy and maternity care, academic support, financial assistance, and access to other support programs.
Many states will continue to protect a women’s right to abortions. Other states offer expanded access to abortion services. In these states, academic institutions will continue to offer access to abortion in college.
Transgender Reproductive Health
Transgender, transsexual, and non-binary college students must access gender-affirming healthcare and support services. Many transgender individuals delay seeking health care information, consultations, screenings, or treatments because they do not have access to appropriate, respectful, or informative care. In fact, that number may be as high as one in three. This signals a need for on-campus healthcare services to be proactive in ensuring transgender college students understand their reproductive health and receive regular checkups and tests.
Transgender college students should have a discussion with a trusted healthcare provider about safe sex methods. Doctors may need to consider current hormones or medications while determining a safe and effective birth control approach. It is also an excellent idea to find STD prevention methods that individuals are comfortable with to prevent the transmission of STDS in college.
One crucial part of trans reproductive health is receiving regular health screenings. Many transgender individuals do not know which reproductive health tests they may need, as they may have different genitalia than they or their doctors identify them with. When healthcare providers respect their gender, sex, and identity, they can ensure their patients receive important exams regularly and comfortably.
Many college students are actively transitioning during their academic careers. Fortunately, numerous colleges and universities offer care, support, direction, and financial assistance with hormone treatments and surgeries.
Safety and Privacy
All students have the right to comprehensive healthcare services where they feel safe, respected, and accommodated. Likewise, they should be able to visit their provider without worrying that their clinic will release their private information. In 2022, the United States Department of Health and Human Services motioned to provide more protection for transgender youth seeking healthcare. The guidance will significantly decrease the number of healthcare providers who can turn away transgender individuals or disclose their private information.
Using College Insurance – What Does It Pay For?
Most colleges and universities offer healthcare insurance, allowing students to receive the care and support they need at a fraction of the cost. College health insurance plans can be an immense help for students, especially those who may have a limited income. It can also encourage students to seek the reproductive healthcare they need on a regular basis. Below, find all the pertinent information about using health insurance in college.
Do Colleges Offer Health Insurance?
Many American educational institutes offer college student health insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made these plans more comprehensive and affordable for students in 2010. As a result, more students could opt into low cost health insurance for college students and take advantage of healthcare on and off-campus; the rate of uninsured college students dropped from 20% to 14% by 2020. Suppose students are not on their parent’s health insurance plans, have their own marketplace health insurance plan, or qualify for Medicaid. In that case, college health insurance can be an excellent option for many students.
What Does College Health Insurance Cover?
Courtesy of the ACA, college health insurance plans cover more essential healthcare elements than before 2020. They may provide any of the following:
- Non-emergency and emergency care in the immediate area of the school
- Outpatient care or treatment
- Inpatient care or treatment
- Inpatient mental health
- Prescription drugs
- Maternity care and newborn care
- Rehabilitative services, equipment, or devices
- Laboratory services
- X-Ray and medical imaging services
- Chronic disease care or treatment
- Preventative services
- Pediatric services
It is important for women to look over college students health insurance plans their particular academic institution offers. Every school may provide coverage for different services and various levels of coverage. They also may not cover certain aspects of healthcare such as dental or vision services, post-natal maternity care, or alternative medicine. Since this is the case, women need to ensure that they opt for a plan that includes necessary or preferred care, support, or services.
How Much Is Health Insurance for College Students?
The cost of health insurance in college depends on academic institution, location, and coverage. Fortunately, many schools know the value of creating and maintaining affordable health insurance for students in college. Many plans are on par with the national average of $7,739 per year, while others will decrease the rate significantly in accordance with tuition fees.
Some colleges offer different packages, such as basic, comprehensive, spouse, and family plans. Low cost college student health insurance may be cheaper, around $3,500 per year, although it will not include all the benefits of a comprehensive or family plan.
If women qualify for Medicaid, they may be able to receive free health insurance for college students. Medicaid provides coverage for low-income individuals, people with disabilities, pregnant women, families, and children.