Pregnancy with another condition or disability

Some women had health problems of their own which could affect pregnancy and birth. In these cases, the staff giving them antenatal care needed to know about the condition and liaise with her GP or specialist. While most women would be keen to avoid medication in pregnancy in case it harmed the baby, women with conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy had to continue their drugs.

A woman with diabetes had had a series of problems in pregnancy, including several miscarriages, severe sickness, pre-eclampsia and a baby with heart defects. Her most recent pregnancy ended in a stillbirth at 36 weeks. She had never had formal pre-pregnancy counselling. She received excellent care once pregnant, but with hindsight she wondered if the baby died because of her diabetes (see also 'Stillbirth and neonatal death').

Other women spent some time discussing their condition with their specialist before getting pregnant (see 'Getting pregnant'). One mother with epilepsy said the risks for the baby from taking her drugs were lower than the risks from having a seizure, which could affect the baby's oxygen supply. Even so, the drugs increased the risk of spina bifida, and talking to another mother using the same drug reassured her. Apart from one seizure early in pregnancy, her epilepsy has been better since becoming pregnant and having the baby, but possibly because of a less stressful lifestyle. (See also the Healthtalk site on epilepsy - 'Women and epilepsy').

Some hospitals have special units for women with more complicated pregnancies. One woman, whose spleen was removed in childhood because of a blood disorder, found the extra care very reassuring. Having no spleen made her more prone to infections, and she was due for a five-yearly booster injection to protect her from pneumococcal infection, but could not have it while pregnant. The condition hardly affected her daily life, so she had not considered that it might complicate pregnancy.

A woman with a blood-clotting disorder was able to be looked after mostly by her GP during pregnancy with input from her specialist and an obstetrician. She needed daily injections of heparin but felt sure the benefits outweighed the risks of taking medication in pregnancy.

One mother thought she would never had children because she was told she had multiple sclerosis and had to use a wheelchair. She changed her mind when she was told it was not MS after all (see 'Getting pregnant'). Having a physical disability herself made her feel she could not cope with a baby with a disability, so she was very anxious about antenatal screening. Her feelings about it were different from many of her friends'. She would have liked more contact with other pregnant women, but this was sometimes difficult, for instance lack of wheelchair access to local National Childbirth Trust (NCT) antenatal classes (see 'Antenatal classes and preparation'). Practical advice from her local hospital and Disabled Parents International helped her. The Disabled Parents Network also advised her on cots and pushchairs.

This mother was taking heparin to prevent blood clots during pregnancy. During the birth, she was given a catastrophic overdose of heparin and nearly died. She felt she was an expert in her own condition, but when it came to pregnancy became passive and unquestioning, which was unlike her.

Jen, similarly did not think she could get pregnant because of her cerebral palsy. She had to come off her medication because of the pregnancy which left her in considerable pain. She also felt she was treated differently to other women because of her learning disability.
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Last reviewed May 2017.
Last updated
May 2017.


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