Physical disability during pregnancy
If you are pregnant and have a physical disability, you may be wondering how your condition will affect your pregnancy. This is what you need to know.
Having a physical disability does not usually affect your chances of getting pregnant or of bearing and giving birth. But depending on the nature of your disability, you may be more prone to certain complications. The good news is that a lot of women with physical disabilities have completely healthy pregnancies.
Choosing a prenatal doctor in the event of a physical disability
Having a physical disability does not mean automatically classified your pregnancy as high risk. However, some doctors are going to be more comfortable referring you to an obstetrician or maternal-fetal medicine specialist who has experience treating women who face a similar challenge as you.
And these specialists may be easier to find than you think. A growing number of hospitals are developing special programs to provide women with physical disabilities with better prenatal and obstetric care. Some OB / GYN offices are also making their practices more accessible to pregnant women with physical disabilities, for example by adding wheelchair-accessible ladders or examination tables that lower to facilitate transfers.
If such a program or doctor is not available in your area, you will need a doctor who is willing to learn “on the job” and can offer you all the support you need.
Management of a pregnancy with physical disability
The additional steps that will be necessary for your pregnancy to be successful will depend on your specific condition. Staying as healthy as possible during pregnancy will go a long way in making your pregnancy as comfortable and safe as possible.
Try to keep your weight gain within the recommended range, as this will help minimize stress on your body. Eating the best diet possible will improve your overall physical well-being and decrease the risk of pregnancy complications.
Having a healthy exercise routine will help you gain maximum strength and mobility when your baby arrives. Aquatic exercise and physiotherapy can be beneficial and safe, so be sure to ask your doctor for a recommendation if it’s right for you.
Are there any additional risks to my pregnancy or my baby if I have a physical disability?
It should be heartwarming to know that while pregnancy may be more difficult for you than for other pregnant women, it shouldn’t be more stressful on your baby. There is no evidence of a rise in fetal abnormalities in babies of women with neural structure injury (or those with other physical disabilities unrelated to hereditary or systemic diseases).
However, pregnant women with certain physical disabilities may face an increased risk of certain additional symptoms and complications. Pregnant women with spinal cord injuries, for example, are more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney infections, and bladder problems.
There may also be an increased risk of possible breathing problems (and even pneumonia) as the uterus grows and pushes against the diaphragm, and autonomic dysreflexia, a sudden onset of excessively high blood pressure.
Other common problems can include anemia (taking an iron supplement can help prevent it, so check with your doctor if you should), skin ulcers (if you can, try to get them). minimize by avoiding staying in one position for too long), increased back pain and discomfort, and an increased risk of varicose veins and even deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs).
Childbirth can also pose special challenges, although a vaginal birth is possible in most cases. Uterine contractions can be painless for mothers with certain spinal cord injuries, so you may be asked to watch for other signs of impending labor, such as a break in blood or water. You may also be asked to periodically feel your uterus to see if any contractions have started.
In addition, well in advance of your due date, you should plan for your arrival at the hospital, including what to do if you are left alone during labor. For example, you might want to get to the hospital early to avoid problems caused by delays along the way. You will also want to make sure that the hospital staff are prepared for your additional needs.
What should I expect after the baby is born if I have a physical disability?
Being a parent is always a challenge, especially in the first few weeks. But planning ahead will help you meet this challenge more successfully.
Here’s a list of things to do or consider ahead of time if you can:
- Make any necessary changes to your home before your baby arrives to meet your special child care needs.
- Seek help from a partner, family member, friend or other caregiver, especially early on.
- Try breastfeeding, which is usually possible and can make your life easier – don’t rush into the kitchen to make bottles or buy formula. However, if formula turns out to be a better course of action for you and your baby, that’s fine.
- Have your diapers and other baby supplies delivered, which will also save you time and effort.
- The changing table should be designed so that you can use it from your wheelchair, if you have one.
- The cradle should have an accessible side so you can easily get your baby in and out.
- The baby bath should be placed in a location and manner that is accessible to you if you are going to bathe the baby in part or in whole. Daily baths in the tub are not necessary, so you can dry your little one off on the changing table or on your lap every other day.
- Carrying your baby in a sling or sling may be the most convenient way to carry your small package, as it will leave your hands free. If you put it on early in the morning, you can put your baby in and out as needed.
- Consider joining a support group for parents with disabilities or finding a good group online. They are likely to provide you with much-needed comfort, friendship, and empathy and can be a gold mine of great ideas and advice.
- Try other resources for people with physical disabilities and their families, including Through the Looking Glass and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association / United Spinal Association.
While being pregnant with a physical disability and being a new mother with a disability comes with additional challenges, you can be encouraged knowing that your chances of having a healthy pregnancy are very good with the right medical care and help. And the reward is this beautiful baby looking at you, who will change your life in so many wonderful ways. Seek advice from Disability Maternity Care today!
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