Many women, when they find out they are pregnant, have mixed feelings. Pregnancy can be both an exciting and scary time for many women. You may have planned your pregnancy, or it might be a surprise. This will affect how you are feeling about being pregnant.
If you have a disability, you may also experience these feelings. But you may have other feelings about how your family feels about you being pregnant, and what affect your disability may have on your pregnancy.
Should I have a baby?
Firstly, you need to decide how YOU FEEL about your pregnancy. Some women with disability may feel pressured into terminating their pregnancy by others. This is a serious issue, and no one can make you do this. It is often a good idea to discuss your feelings about being pregnant with someone else, other than your friends and family. A GP or a Women’s Health Nurse at the local Community Health Centre can be a good person to talk to. It is important that you do this as early as possible in pregnancy, so you have time to make the choices that work for you.
How often will I need a pregnancy check-up?
During pregnancy, you will need to have lots of pregnancy checks, also called antenatal visits. Often your first visit will be with your GP. At this visit your GP will organise for you to have some routine pregnancy tests. These include:
- A blood test to check you are healthy
- An ultrasound to check how many weeks pregnant you are
- A referral to a specialist, depending on the type of disability you have
- Refer you to book-in at the hospital
What happens at the first antenatal visit?
At the booking-in visit a midwife will talk to you. This visit is generally longer and takes 1 – 1 ½ hours. During this visit, you will be asked lots of questions about your medical history, other pregnancies you may have had, your social circumstances and the support you have during pregnancy, the birth and after the baby is born. If you are going to need additional support because of your disability, organising this in pregnancy is the best time. You will then have this support available when you go home from hospital with your baby.
Options for pregnancy Care
It is also important at this visit to talk to the midwife about the options for your pregnancy care. This may depend on your disability, and what services are available in your area. Types of care can include:
GP Care – where you see your GP for all your pregnancy care;
Shared Care – where care is shared between several health professionals, such as GPs, midwives, Obstetricians;
Public Hospital care – most hospitals provide a public antenatal clinic where you may see different midwives and doctors each time you go.
Midwife Care– for many women with additional needs, like a disability, having the same midwife see you during your pregnancy can be the best option. This may be called Caseload midwifery or Midwifery group practice. Some hospitals have Team midwifery where you will see a couple of midwives throughout your pregnancy.
Some larger hospitals may also offer this option of Caseload midwifery for women with higher medical needs. Here, the same midwife will see you as well as other medical specialists.
The benefits of seeing the same midwife for your pregnancy care are:
- You get to know the midwife; She/he gets to know you and what is important to you;
- You don’t have to repeat your story to a new person each visit;
- Your midwife can tailor information to suits your needs
- Your midwife can act as your advocate to make sure that plans for your baby’s birth and afterwards in hospital are known to other health care providers;
Depending on your disability, you may need to see both a doctor and midwife for your antenatal care. It is important to talk to the midwife about the options for care available in your area, and how often you will need to have antenatal visits. Also, talk to the midwife at Booking-in about what ongoing tests you may need to have.
For other information:
Australian College of Midwives – a professional organisation for Midwives. It does have a section for searching services by type (midwife/doula, etc..) or location.
Maternity choices – – have a range of consumer information available to assist pregnant women and their families/carers.
Pregnancybirth&baby website – A national government funded site with information related to pregnancy, birth or parenting.
Women with Disabilities Australia – a national organisation to support women with disabilities. Although not specific for maternity services, there is a section on motherhood and parenting.