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Pregnant disabled women need more support, says report

22 March, 2018

Pregnant disabled women need more support, says report

New research reveals that disabled women are generally not receiving the individualised care and support they need to make choices about their maternity care.

The report, commissioned by the charity organisation Birthrights, includes and builds on the survey research published in 2016, which found that more than a quarter of disabled women asked felt that their rights were poorly or very poorly respected.  

A quarter felt they were treated less favourably because of their disability, and more than half (56%) felt that healthcare providers did not have appropriate attitudes to disability.

Some found birth rooms, postnatal wards, or their notes and scans ‘completely inaccessible’.

The new research presents data from in-depth interviews with disabled women and highlights the need to treat all women, regardless of disabilities, as individuals with their own specific needs.

It emphasises the need to recognise that disabled women are experts in their own conditions and what they mean for their bodies and choices in childbirth.  

Some participants described scenarios of having to prove that their choices were suitable, and felt that their dignity was undermined.

Participants also described having to explain themselves repeatedly to each new care provider; at times feeling as if the focus was on their impairment rather than their needs as a person.

However, women who had experienced continuity of carer spoke very positively of their experiences and of experiencing more dignified care.

Birthrights’ chair Elizabeth Prochaska said: ‘It is fundamentally important that disabled women – like all women – receive dignified maternity care that respects their human rights. The research highlights that much more work is needed by maternity services in order to provide high-quality individualised care to all disabled women. This must include ensuring that all women are given all the information they require to make decisions about their care, in a way that respects their own knowledge about their bodies.’

The research was conducted by Jenny Hall, Jillian Ireland and Professor Vanora Hundley at Bournemouth University and Dr Bethan Collins, senior lecturer in occupational therapy at the University of Liverpool.

Read the full report here.

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