Online Program

Interactions of Women with Physical Disability with Health Care Clinicians During Pregnancy

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Suzanne C. Smeltzer, RN, EdD, FAAN, College of Nursing, Villanova University, Villanova, PA
Monika Mitra, PhD, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Linda Long-Bellil, PhD, JD, Center for Health Policy and Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Shrewsbury, MA
Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc, Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Lauren Smith, MPH, Disability, Health and Employment Policy Unit, University of Massaschusetts Medical School, Shrewsbury, MA
The number of women with physical disabilities becoming pregnant each year is increasing, but many report problematic interactions with health care clinicians, resulting in discomfort with their care. A descriptive qualitative study examined the unmet needs and barriers to perinatal care among women with physical disabilities. A sample of 25 women with diverse physical disabilities that limited their ability to walk or use their arms or hands and who had delivered babies in the past ten years was recruited through various means including social media. The resulting telephone interviews were transcribed, reviewed, and content analyzed. Women with physical disabilities reported both positive and negative experiences in their interactions with their health care clinicians. Three primary themes related to women’s interactions with their health care clinicians were identified:  1) clinicians’ lack of awareness about the sexuality and reproductive concerns of women with disabilities, 2) clinicians’ lack of knowledge about pregnancy-related needs of women with physical disabilities, and 3) the need for healthcare professionals to respect the knowledge and experience of women related to their own disability. Some women reported that their clinicians did not view them as normal and viewed their pregnancies negatively. Many clinicians had little knowledge about women’s disability, although some were willing to learn. Women valued clinicians who were willing to do research and who listened to them and acknowledged that they knew their own bodies and disability. These findings have important implications for women with disabilities seeking perinatal care and the health care professionals providing such care.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Other professions or practice related to public health
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe perinatal experiences of women with physical disability in their interaction with health care clinicians.

Keyword(s): Disabilities, Perinatal Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been conducting research on pregnancy-related issues in women with disabilities for over 20 years. I have published extensively on the topic and am co-investigator on the project that is discussed in the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.