My experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood as an autistic mum
By Sara King on 02 April 2021
Hi - I’m Sara King. I’m an autistic mum, with two autistic children, and several other autistic people in my wider family. I didn’t discover I was autistic until I was in my forties, and it was a huge relief to realise it, and to receive my diagnosis. Like many other autistic adults who have been diagnosed later in life, finding out that the way I experience the world is because I am autistic has been a revelation.
Sensory issues affect me enormously and impact on my daily life. Too much noise, bright lights, too much movement around me – these things affect my ability to process what is happening around me and drain my energy. I also have a different way of approaching social activities and interaction and need a lot of time on my own.
I had my children before I was diagnosed. I knew, even before my diagnosis, that I would find it hard to manage the sensory experiences involved in parenting - the noise, mess, social activities, and the lack of time alone, however I love my children immensely and they have brought so much joy and purpose to my life.
I had excellent care from maternity services when having my children. Despite that, I found the experience incredibly challenging with an overload of sensory experiences, conflicting information, lack of privacy, and lots of change – people, rooms, and my whole life! I experienced post-natal anxiety and depression following each birth, which lasted for several years on both occasions.
Part of the process becoming aware about my autistic traits and tendencies was reading and learning everything I could about autism. This became an obsession and was fascinating to me. This led to me taking a qualification in autism and I now have a PGDip in Autism (Adults).
My own experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood as an autistic mum made me wonder how other autistic people had experienced these things, and I carried out a small research project with autistic women, finding that many experienced a range of challenges when accessing services including sensory, communication differences, a need for very detailed information, and continuity of care. These are topics that are relevant to all women however the severity of the impact and the lasting difficulties because of that are likely to be more extreme in autistic women.
These findings made me wonder what the experiences of maternity services staff are in terms of understanding autism, what training they have had, and how well supported they feel to care for an autistic woman. I’m interested in identifying areas of best practice and exploring what improvements could be made. I am now undertaking a PhD to explore this whole area more fully.
I work with an autism charity, leading a discussion group for autistic women, and another group for autistic parents (who may also have autistic children) and I’m keen to help share information more widely that can help develop deeper understanding of autism to improve services for autistic people.
If you work in maternity services and are interested in participating in the research, more information and access to the survey can be found here