Online Program

Impact of physical disability on women's experiences throughout pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Linda Long-Bellil, PhD, JD, Center for Health Policy and Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Shrewsbury, MA
Monika Mitra, PhD, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Suzanne C. Smeltzer, RN, EdD, FAAN, College of Nursing, Villanova University, Villanova, PA
Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc, Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
Background: There is limited knowledge about the impact of physical disability on the health and function of women with these types of disabling conditions before, during and after pregnancy. The literature suggests that these women may experience significant secondary conditions and complications during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. The objective of this study was to understand the interaction between physically disabling conditions and the health and function of women during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

Methods:  Interviews were conducted with 25 women with various physical disabilities, including spinal muscular atrophy, osteogenesis imperfecta, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, dwarfism and other conditions. Women were recruited through community-based organizations and via social media. All study participants had given birth within the past ten years.

Results: The most significant impact of physical disability was experienced by women during childbirth where their disabling conditions, at times, impacted the mode of delivery, anesthesia and other aspects of care. Most women reported a relatively modest impact of their disabling conditions on their health and function during pregnancy and little, if any, impact on health and function after pregnancy. Modifications to treatment were needed at all stages of pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care to address disability-related needs.

Conclusion: This study sheds light on the experiences of women with physical disabilities during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum process. It documents the impact of their disabling conditions on these three stages of pregnancy and the modifications to care that were needed in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Basic medical science applied in public health
Clinical medicine applied in public health
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Provision of health care to the public
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the impact of physical disability on the health and function of women during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Describe some of the modifications in care utilized by health care professionals to achieve the best possible outcome for women with physical disabilities.

Keyword(s): Disabilities, Maternal and Child Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a Ph.D. and am a co-investigator on the research study from which I will be presenting data.
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.