‘When I had conceived, my husband and his mother would always say, “Don’t worry, god has blessed you with this child, he will bless you with ways to raise him. Don’t be tense, all will be well…’
Jairrunisha Razar Shaikh, 34, polio-affected
Can I have sex during pregnancy?
That depends on you. Some women do not want much sex when they are pregnant. Others want sex more than usual. Both feelings – and anything in between – are completely normal and safe for you and your baby.
Sometimes, sex can be more uncomfortable in pregnancy. Depending on your disability, you can try different positions until you find something that is comfortable for both you and your partner. Some positions that may feel better are with you on top, a sitting or standing position, or lying on your side. There is often a misconception that sex during the last weeks of pregnancy helps induce labour. This isn’t true, but many may have sex during this time for emotional support or as stress relief!
If you are having sex during pregnancy, it is important to avoid infections by making sure that anything put inside your body is clean. Use condoms to avoid contracting HIV or other STIs. If you have had a baby before and experienced early labour, it is probably best for you not to have vaginal sex after the sixth month of pregnancy.
Apart from sex, you and your partner can do many things to make each other happy and feel pleasure, such as kissing, touching each other, and giving massages. Sometimes more than physical contact, couples feel a great deal of contentment during this time by talking about their hopes and dreams for the future.
How do I know whether the discomfort I am feeling is due to my disability or my pregnancy?
During pregnancy, women often experience physical discomfort like fatigue, frequent urination, high susceptibility to infections, back pain, or weak digestion. Here are some examples of symptoms you may feel. These are symptoms experienced by both disabled and non-disabled women. More specifically, if you have any kind of sensory impairment, your discomfort during pregnancy will not be influenced by your disability at all. In other cases, your disability may worsen these discomforts. Maxwell’s ‘Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities’ has some useful disability specific information for you. If you have a spinal cord injury, infections of the urine system may occur more frequently during pregnancy. If your disability affects movement and balance, you may need to start using aides to move around during your pregnancy. If you have an amputated leg and a prosthesis, then you may have to start using a wheelchair or crutches instead. If you have a limited lung capacity because of short stature or paralysis of the chest muscles, you may have to strive to keep your lungs clean during this time.
If you are unsure where the discomfort is arising from, compare your levels of discomfort during pregnancy with the levels of discomfort prior to it. Knowing this will help you figure out what is causing the discomfort and manage it accordingly. Every woman’s body changes to accommodate her baby, and so will yours. Make sure you consult a doctor who understands your disability, so that he or she can help you during this time.
Everyone feels that my miscarriage was because of my disability. Is this true?
Many people may have told you (or not-so-secretly thought) that you weren’t fit to have a child. It is possible that they even disapproved of your decision to conceive. People often believe that disabled women shouldn’t have children, so they may assume that your miscarriage was because of your disability – since you were never ‘meant’ to have a child. Eventually, you may start to believe this too. But as a disabled woman, you are no more likely to have a miscarriage than a nondisabled woman. Miscarriages are most common during the first trimester – 3 months – of pregnancy, and can be caused by unhealthy eggs or sperm, a history of miscarriage in the family, growths (fibroids) in the womb, infections in the womb or vagina, heavy work or accidents, malnutrition, emotional stress, or trauma. Look at this article for details of these conditions. What you will find is that none of them are related to disability.
Having a miscarriage, whether early or later in a pregnancy, can cause enormous emotional pain and sadness, which may take longer than the physical pain to heal. If people make you feel like the miscarriage was your fault, it can make this already traumatic time more difficult for you. Even if others don’t understand your sadness, you should allow yourself to feel these emotions – it is completely natural. Talk to someone who knows you well and understands that the miscarriage was not your fault.
Remember, despite what anyone says, it was not your fault – and that losing out on one pregnancy doesn’t mean you can’t become pregnant again.
Is it wrong for me to have an abortion?
As a woman living in India, you have the legal right to medically terminate your pregnancy within the first 20 weeks of getting pregnant. This should be carried out within the medically prescribed term from a registered abortion clinic. Despite its legal status, many women question whether it is morally right to have an abortion. Many communities – especially religious ones – believe that abortion is a sin . This is not true. Abortion is a medical procedure that is best carried out safely.
Before deciding to have an abortion, make sure you have sufficiently thought about it – it is, after all, an irreversible procedure. Sometimes meeting a counsellor before taking the decision may help. Says counsellor Jyotti Savla, ‘Women face a lot of pressure when it comes to abortion. There might be pressure from family or friends, or shame and guilt which may drive them to take such a decision. If they have conceived from an extra-marital affair, or they are extremely conscious of not having had protected sex, the level of guilt may be higher and hence they may wish to abort. There is also a huge morality about abortion. But honestly every individual has their own value systems, and whether abortion is okay or not purely depends on their values and thinking. Sometimes when we help them deal with their other related issues, they can take a better and a much more informed decision.’
Societal norms around abortion often reflect underlying value systems. A married woman who is not disabled is almost never encouraged to have an abortion, while a married woman with a disability is encouraged to do so – because of the assumption that the offspring will be disabled, or the mother will not be able to care for the child. For unmarried women, or women who have conceived through sexual abuse, abortion is often seen as the ‘best’ or the ‘only’ solution. In some conservative communities, sex-selective abortion is also encouraged. This is illegal, and the sex of the foetus is never grounds for an abortion.