‘I asked my doctor at our last visit if he thinks he will induce me early since I am high risk with my Autonomic Dysreflexia (not to mention we will most likely have a large baby, as neither my husband nor I are small people). He really didn’t want to commit to anything just yet. He is treating me and my pregnancy just as he would any other pregnancy. It’s nice that he really isn’t too worried and will treat me like any of his patients. Of course, as we get closer there will probably be more issues and concerns, but as of now, I’m just like any other pregnant woman. It’s nice to finally be somewhat normal!’
Muffy Davis, wheelchair-bound, on Disaboom
How will I go through labour with my disability?
It is natural to feel anxious about giving birth – irrespective of whether or not you are disabled. Women may worry about pain, potential complications, or simply be overwhelmed by the fact that they are bringing another human being into the world! But remember, women have been going through child birth since the beginning of time. It is a natural process, so trust in your ability to be able to handle it. While the process of labour is the same for disabled and nondisabled women, you may have to consider a few things given your impairment.
Going through labour is difficult for any woman, and having your partner, a friend or a family member with you can be helpful, since they can reassure you through the process. If you are hearing impaired or have difficulty communicating, this person can also act as a channel of communication between the doctor and you, making sure each understands the other accurately. Health workers or birth attendants may not know sign language, which can make communication with a hearing impaired woman difficult . Sometimes, women with a high spinal cord injury have not been informed of the possibility of dysreflexia during childbirth, which can be fatal if not managed.
If you are worried about your disability affecting the process of giving birth, equip yourself with information on how you can make the process of labour as comfortable as possible. Speak beforehand to the person who will be delivering your baby, explaining any special needs or concerns you may have. This will allow him or her to assist you through labour in the best possible way.
How will I know when I am going into labour?
Labour usually starts when you have been pregnant more than 8 months . During this time, the baby will drop lower in your belly, and you may find it easier to breathe. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, you may feel your womb getting tight a few times a day, or maybe only a few times each week. These tight feelings are only practice contractions, not real labour. They may feel strange and last for a few minutes, but they do not usually hurt, or follow a regular pattern. If you are paralyzed and have no feeling in your stomach area, you will probably still be able to tell when the baby is ready to come out. Your paralysis may prevent you from experiencing pain, but your womb will feel different enough, letting you know that you are in the final stages of pregnancy.
When you are about to go into labour, there are three main signs that your body may give you (they may not all happen, and can happen in any order) – a clear or pink coloured mucus comes out of your vagina; clear water comes out of the vagina as the bag of water breaks; the womb begins to contract and pains in the belly start. During a contraction, the womb will squeeze up and become hard, and then it will relax and become soft again. At first, contractions may come 10 or 20 minutes apart or more. When contractions become regular (have about the same amount of time between each one), real labour has begun. Contractions are usually painful, but if you have no feeling in your belly, you can usually see or feel the changes because the belly gets hard during a contraction and then soft again. If you have a fairly high spinal-cord injury, you can get a sudden and dangerous increase in blood pressure with pounding headaches and severe sweating when you are in labour.
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, contact your doctor or midwife at once – your baby is on the way.
Given my disability, will I have to deliver my baby through an operation?
Both disabled and nondisabled women may sometimes undergo surgery to deliver their baby. But it is incorrect to assume that a disabled mother-to-be can only deliver through a surgery. Having a disability does not mean your womb is damaged. Even if your body and legs are paralyzed, there are chances that your uterus will still be able to contract and push out a baby.
However, there are instances where your impairment means that having a vaginal delivery may be a little more difficult . If you have cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, or severe muscle spasms – conditions which prevent you from opening your legs wide – then you may need someone’s help to keep your legs apart for two to three hours, or have to deliver through a surgery. Similarly, if you are a woman with a short stature, your pelvic bones may not be wide enough for the baby to come out safely without an operation. Women with a high spinal cord injury are at a risk of havingdysreflexia (a deadly and sudden increase in blood pressure) because of which a surgery for delivery may be advised.
Consult your health worker or doctor about the possible options for delivery, and make a decision based on what will be best for both you and your baby.
Since giving birth, I have been feeling very sad. I am told this is because of my disability – is this true?
Most women feel a range of strong emotions after giving birth – most of the time, these feelings are completely harmless, and caused by not only the changes in their lives, but the hormonal changes within their bodies. A new mother may feel sad or worried for a few days, weeks or even months, and if others around you do not understand this, they may attribute these feelings to your disability – especially if you are finding it difficult to take care of yourself or the baby.
Sometimes, these hormonal and lifestyle changes can result in mood swings, and even lead to restlessness, lack of sleep, paranoia, constant sadness and tears, or changes in eating patterns. Some mothers even find it difficult to feel love for their baby. This feeling (or rather, lack of feeling) can make a woman feel not only unhappy, but extremely guilty. The intense feeling of depression after delivery is called post-natal depression . Women who have experienced feelings like this at the birth of a previous child may be more likely to feel this way again. Like any other woman going through post-natal depression, you will feel better if you can talk to someone you trust about what you are experiencing. Speaking to a doctor or counsellor can also help.
. Women who have experienced feelings like this at the birth of a previous child may be more likely to feel this way again. Like any other woman going through post-natal depression, you will feel better if you can talk to someone you trust about what you are experiencing. Speaking to a doctor or counsellor can also help.
Every woman needs physical care, emotional support and love after delivering a child, irrespective of whether or not she is disabled, and you should not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.