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Accommodating Pregnancy-Related Conditions

What is an accommodation or modification?

In order to be able to continue their studies, some students with impairments relating to pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage may need an adjustment in how, when, or where they complete their academic work. Colleges and universities must provide reasonable modifications under Title IX.

Here are some examples of pregnancy-related reasonable modifcations:

“Mary” needed to use the bathroom often due to pregnancy. Mary’s university enabled her to take her exams near a bathroom and provided extra test time for breaks so that her grades wouldn’t suffer from spending precious exam minutes in the bathroom.
“Janet” has pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome. Her college provided her with a note-taker when typing became too difficult.
“Jesse” couldn’t lift and move heavy lab equipment while recovering from her C-section. The school allowed others to assist her.



Pregnancy-related conditions that you can request accommodations for include:

  • Pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy (abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth), or lactation–and recovery from these conditions
  • Medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy (abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth), or
    lactation. Common examples include fatigue, dehydration (or the need for increased water intake), morning sickness, mastitis (breast infection), anemia, back pain, frequent urination, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, etc.
  • Your health issue does not need to be a disability or even a formally diagnosed “complication” for you to receive reasonable modifications


If you need changes to your college’s policies, practices, or procedures, because of a pregnancy-related health need, you have a right to them–so long as the change you’re requesting is “reasonable.” As explained in federal regulations, you’re entitled to changes that you need to continue your education, so long as the changes don’t “fundamentally alter” your educational program or activity.

For example, it would likely be “unreasonable” for a university to have to completely waive a student’s requirements that demonstrate academic competency (such as exams or a requirement to see patients). However, it would likely be reasonable for the university to have to reschedule a students’ exams or provide lifting assistance to a student caring for patients. The Department of Education has noted skipping or waiving academic requirements is unreasonable in many situations, while it would likely be reasonable to provide the student a different way to meet those requirements.

It is up to your college to show that a modification would be unreasonable in your particular case, and to consider alternatives. A modification is never unreasonable just because existing policy does not allow for a particular change; reasonable modifications may require adjusting policies or procedures when necessary to support a student with a pregnancy-related condition. See below for more info on the process of setting up a reasonable modification.

For a list of common pregnancy-related conditions and helpful accommodations, click here.


Students should ask for what they need!  There is no set list of reasonable adjustments; what is best in your particular situation is up to you. It may be helpful to discuss your health situation and ideas with your healthcare provider.

Common reasonable modifications include:

  • A different chair/desk
  • Avoiding hazardous chemicals or activities
  • Delayed deadlines
  • Bathroom breaks
  • Permission to eat or drink in class
  • Parking spaces
  • Notetakers or permission to record a class
  • Remote/virtual learning
  • Time off to attend doctor’s appointments or attend to health needs

See below for more information on the process of setting up a reasonable modification. For a list of common pregnancy-related conditions and helpful accommodations, click here.



  • For information about your school’s policies or to request assistance, contact your school’s Title IX Coordinator. These administrators are required to assist you in securing adjustments and leave, when needed. If you are having trouble finding the Title IX office, ask a professor, your academic advisor, or the dean of student affairs.
  • Policies and procedures for accommodating students with disabilities in postsecondary settings vary by institution. Click here for examples of policies and procedures from 2-year and 4-year institutions in the United States.


Step 1: Identify what you need

If you are faced with a challenging condition, remember that your symptoms and needs are not always apparent to professors and schools administrators.  The first step is to think about your condition and the ways that the institution can help accommodate you so that you can continue your studies.


Example: Janet has severe hand pain, and was diagnosed with a pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. Because she can’t type her notes in class, she decides that it would be helpful if she could record class.

Step 2: Ask for assistance

Ask for assistance from your professors or your university’s Title IX office. All institutions are required to have a Title IX Coordinator who ensures that pregnant and postpartum students get the modifications they need.


Example: Janet goes to the disabled student’s program and fills out a form requesting an accommodation of recording her classes.
TIP: Make your request in writing. Be sure to describe how your condition affects your education and how the requested accommodations would help you.

Step 3: Documentation

Your college may ask for documentation of your health needs.  Any documentation requested must be both reasonable and necessary. According to Department of Education guidance, it is not acceptable to ask for documentation when:

    1. The need is obvious. For example, if you are pregnant and need a different uniform.
    2. The student has already provided enough documentation.
    3. The information requested is only to confirm pregnancy.
    4. Other students are provided the change you want without submitting documentation.
    5. The adjustment requested is for:
      • carrying and drinking water
      • a bigger desk
      • sitting or standing
      • taking breaks to eat, drink, or use the restroom
      • lactation breaks and space

Typically, faculty should not be requesting medical documentation on their own. If you have received a request for information that you aren’t comfortable with, reach out to your Title IX Coordinator, or contact us. Know that if you do submit information, anything personally identifiable can only be disclosed in limited circumstances, and can never be shared to retaliate against you.

Step 4: Work with your school to identify appropriate accommodations

A school must consider your request for accommodation promptly and in good faith.  You and your Title IX Coordinator, or other representative, must be willing to engage in an interactive process to determine the best way to accommodate your pregnancy-related needs. You may need to have several discussions to determine an appropriate adjustment. 


Example: Janet is told that her request to record classes will be difficult to accommodate because of current policies. But that is not the end of the conversation! Instead, the University offers to provide Janet with a note taker to type her notes for her. Assuming she will still need assistance at the end of the semester, they also offer to set up text-to-speech software for Janet to be able to compose her final papers and exams even if her hands hurt.

The accommodation you receive must be tailored to your specific needs and give you an opportunity to succeed in the program that is equal to the opportunity given to other students. However, your school is not required to offer accommodation that would be “unreasonable” because it changes the very nature of your programs or academic standards. 


Example: One of Janet’s classes is a speed-typing elective. Because typing quickly is the entire purpose of the course, it would be impossible for someone else to type Janet’s exams. The university will mark her grade as an incomplete for the semester, but Janet will be allowed to finish the class without penalty when she has recovered.

If you have questions about what is reasonable, consider contacting a trusted mentor, or call us.  Remember, even if your college doesn’t agree to provide your first-choice modification, they must still work with you to set up other changes to meet your needs. And, no one can be forced to use an academic modification that they don’t want. For example, you cannot be forced to take leave or drop classes if you don’t want to.

Step 5: Accommodations granted

Once you have agreed to a reasonable modification, your Title IX office will either inform your professors of your accommodations, or give you the resources to do so.  Often the office will provide a letter notifying professors that they must provide accommodations.


Example: Janet agrees with the modifications offered by the University. The Title IX office provides Janet with a letter confirming that she is entitled to typing accommodations, and provides her with a typist in class that next week.
New Title IX Regulations are HERE! To learn more and be the first to receive our updated materials, visit our Title IX Updates page.