9 de October, 2023

Pregnancy and disability: options, risks, and Assisted Reproduction

In this article, we shed some light on the implications surrounding maternity and pregnancy with a disability, as well as provide advice to prepare aspiring and soon-to-be mothers, to explore the different options Assisted Reproductive Technologies offer.

According to the World Health Organization, disability is related to the interaction between individuals with health conditions, affecting personal and environmental factors. 

Usually, when we talk about disability we think of wheelchairs. However, it is important to highlight that, disabilities are heterogeneous because they can manifest in diverse forms. 

This leads to different impediments such as   

  • Physical impediments: movement difficulties
  • Psychological barriers: cognitive deficiencies that may stop interpersonal or intrapersonal development.
  • Communication barriers: obstacles with speech, reading, seeing, and hearing among others

How common is living with a disability?

About 15% of the world's population, lives with a disability. In the case of the US, 26% of adults have some type of disability. And 1 in 4 women has a disability. 

“Almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability – temporary or permanent – at some point in life.” (OMS, 2021)

Disability and discrimination

In spite of the progress in the matter of equity over past decades, the unawareness of society about the situation of millions of people living with a disability is still prominent, leading to stigmatization and discrimination.

Disabilities have different signs and symptoms, their own limits, and therefore, a wide range of needs. Even though they are all diverse, every person who lives with a disability has the right to access healthcare. 

Article 25 of The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities established that people with disabilities have the right to receive the highest quality of healthcare services without discrimination.

Pregnancy and Disability

One out of four women live with a disability in the US, and the desire to achieve motherhood can become complex in contrast to the experience of other able-bodied women. Maternity is a reproductive human right and women with disabilities are free to exercise their rights and receive gynecological care without discrimination from the healthcare system.

Is it possible to achieve pregnancy when living with a disability?

As we previously mentioned, disabilities can manifest in many forms. Therefore, it is common that the condition wouldn't affect the fertility of the patient. In other words, in most cases, people with disabilities have functional reproductive health.

Assisted Reproduction and spinal injuries

Nonetheless, people with spinal cord injuries, that have quadriplegia or paraplegia, would not be able to conceive. 

In that way, the best solution is assisted reproductive technology by any of these: 

  1. Artificial Insemination: it is recommended for women under 35 with a normal ovarian reserve and doesn't present a condition that affects reproductive health. Also, the male partner has to present good reproductive health and no alterations in the sperm sample. 
  2. In vitro fertilization: it is recommended because of the high success rates vs the artificial insemination rates. It is the best option for women above 35 with a condition that affects reproductive health or if the semen sample presents alterations. 

Ask your doctor what is the best way to approach your search for motherhood

Thanks to medical advances and new technology in Assisted Reproduction, it is possible to achieve the dream of motherhood for almost anyone that wishes to have a baby.

Recommendations for carrying a pregnancy while living with a disability

We share some recommendations that could be useful for a pregnancy living with a disability:

  1. Planning: this stage is key to establishing times and goals with a physician. In the case of thinking about going through an Assisted Reproduction procedure, it is necessary to go to a fertility specialist
  2. Looking for testimonies: knowing the stories and obstacles of other women trying to conceive, and living with a disability would help you to feel more confident about what you are going to experience. You can look for social media accounts or interviews online. In the following, we share with you some material that may be helpful: 

-Book “The disabled woman's guide to pregnancy and birth” by Judith Rogers

-Compilation of stories 

-Testimonials of Ingenes blog

  1. Picking up new routines: with the guidance of your current physician, talk about starting new routines which could benefit pregnancy. It could be exercises, alimentary changes, or psychotherapy, among others. 

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