Pregnancy and childbirth often require the guidance of caring, knowledgeable medical professionals to avoid the myriad problems that can crop up. But what if you have a doctor who doesn’t understand your underlying medical conditions and how they may – or may not – affect your ability to have a child?
That’s a very real problem for women with disabilities. It starts with doctors not even asking disabled women of child-bearing age if they might be pregnant or are planning to get pregnant before they prescribe a medication or treatment that could be harmful to an unborn child. However, many people (including some in the medical field) still assume that disabled women don’t have a partner, don’t have sex or can’t get pregnant.
The dangers of prescribing – and withholding – medication during pregnancy
Medication for seizure disorders is just one example. As one maternal-fetal medicine specialist says, “Physicians who provide care to moms who have seizure disorders and things like that are commonly prescribing drugs that are not OK for the first trimester of pregnancy….[They] use their go-to drug for the disease without thinking, this is a young woman who may become pregnant.”
Besides prescribing medication that could be dangerous to a fetus, doctors are even more likely to take pregnant disabled women off needed medications that are typically safe during pregnancy as a precautionary measure – leaving them and their babies at added risk of complications from an underlying condition.
“Lack of information and data”
Even though women with disabilities get pregnant at about the same rate as non-disabled women, there’s a “lack of information and data” according to a professor of disability policy. It was little more than four decades ago that forced sterilization was legal for disabled people, so the medical community has come a long way –- but not nearly far enough, according to those who study the subject of health care for disabled pregnant women.
The danger of the lack of knowledge and stubbornly persistent views around women, disability, sexuality and motherhood continue to put disabled women at risk through the childbirth process and into motherhood. If you and/or your child suffered harm due to the negligence or errors of a doctor or other medical professional, it’s crucial to determine whether you can hold them liable and seek needed compensation and justice.