Who should she see?
If you are a Service Provider caring for a woman with a disability who finds she is pregnant, it is important for her to see a health professional like her GP, as early as possible to help her make the choices that suit her. She may have mixed feelings about being pregnant, regardless of whether it was a planned pregnancy or not. Most women have these feelings.
Supporting her choices in becoming a mother
It is important for you as the Care Provider to support her feelings and the choices she wants to make about this pregnancy. It often helps by exploring how she feels about becoming a mother. And many women’s feelings change over time too. Most women, whether they have a disability or not, feel overwhelmed at first, and wonder if they can develop the skills needed as a mother. It is through the pregnancy, that they develop their confidence in becoming a mother.
Parenting and mothering is a learned skill, and strongly depends on the support of other people to develop. The earlier in pregnancy, women can be linked in services to provide support the better. You as a care provider will already be providing some support, but support for her pregnancy is also crucial. This may be from a midwife, or from other women who are also pregnant.
Booking-in to hospital and antenatal visits
Booking-in to the hospital maternity service early is important. At this visit, the midwife will talk to the mother about options for her pregnancy care. This may depend on the mother’s disability, and what maternity services are available in the local area. Her disability may mean she needs to see both doctors and midwives. Most hospitals in Australia provide a public antenatal clinic where the mother may see different midwives and doctors each time she goes. For many women with additional needs, like a disability, having the same midwife for her pregnancy visits can be the best option. This may be called Caseload midwifery or Midwifery group practice. Some hospitals may have Team midwifery instead where the mother will see a couple of midwives throughout her pregnancy.
Some larger hospitals also may offer Caseload midwifery for women with higher medical needs. Here, the mother will see the same midwife along with other medical specialists throughout the pregnancy.
The benefits of seeing the same midwife for pregnancy care are:
- The mother gets to know the midwife and develops a trusting relationship with the midwife;
- The midwife gets to know the mother’s story, and how best to communicate with her;
- The midwife can tailor information to suit the mother’s level of understanding and particular needs;
- As the midwife develops a good relationship with the mother and her support people, she is better able to advocate for her;
The number of pregnancy visits that the mother will have, and ongoing tests, will depend on her circumstances and disability. As a Care Provider, you will need to discuss with the mother how she would like you to support her.
Your role as Care Provider
This may be to:
- Assist mother with transport to antenatal appointments;
- Assist with communication depending on the mother’s disability; this may include verbal support, but also assisting her fill out relevant maternity forms, or make appointments by phone.
- Advocate for the mother, during appointments, and assist the midwife or other health professional provide pregnancy, birth and parenting information in a manner best suited to the mother.
- Liaise with health professionals, on behalf of the mother to link in to relevant services, either to support her during pregnancy or after the birth of her baby;
Does she need NDIS support?
If the mother has existing National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS) funding, you may need to assist her to apply for further funding to support her new role as a parent. If she does not have NDIS funding because she has been relatively independent in caring for herself, she may need to apply for assistance. Having a baby requires new skills and considerations to be developed, and whilst the mother may have good self-care skills, a new baby adds further challenges.
Different geographical locations will have a variety of services available to support parents-to-be. Community Health Centres are the best way to find out about these in your area. Many support services are organised through non-government organisations.
For other information
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 pregnany, birth or parenting.
Raising Children Network Pregnancy – provides general pregnancy information
National Disability Insurance Scheme – information on this scheme and funding for support if your client has a disability