03 Dec International Day of Persons with Disabilities with the United Nations: Disabilities Resulting from Pregnancy or Childbirth
The month of December recognizes people living with disabilities all over the world. We honor and acknowledge the struggle people with disabilities face in their daily living and consider how communities can reduce stigma and develop adaptations to support quality of life.
Disability as a result of pregnancy and childbirth is not often thought about in this context, but it is the reality of thousands of women across the globe. While disabilities that lead to maternal death occur mostly in low to low-middle income countries, the underlying health conditions that result in maternal death affect any woman who is pregnant or has given birth.
Disabilities Can Be Acute and Short-lived or Chronic and Long-Lasting
Many disabilities are caused by pre-existing illnesses that are inflamed by pregnancy and childbirth. This is because of physical and hormonal changes in the body.
Conditions like: anemia (caused by low iron and/or lack of folate in diet), heart diseases (high blood pressure), diabetes, lupus, hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS can become worse and put the health of both mother and baby at risk.
Some disabilities arise as a direct result of pregnancy and childbirth, like postpartum depression or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) (a ligament condition that causes pelvic girdle pain)
Disabilities can be acute and short-lived or chronic and long-lasting. If they are not dealt with quickly, long term problems like: chronic pain (SPD), chronic fatigue (anemia), hormonal imbalances (affecting fertility), infections (sepsis), and damage to reproductive organs (incontinence, fistulas, prolapse, nerve damage) can occur.1
A Mother’s Quality of Life is Affected By Pregnancy and Childbirth Related Disabilities
So many of these conditions affect a woman’s quality of daily living, fertility, and general productivity long after the baby is born. The single most important factor in preventing pregnancy related disability is getting quality medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. By getting medical care, short-term and long-term conditions are highly preventable.
Often after birth, the focus is on the baby. But, don’t be afraid to seek out care for any symptoms that concern you or are impacting your daily life.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities
- Populations Reference Bureau. August 21, 2002. Hidden suffering: disabilities from pregnancy and childbirth in less developed countries.
- Obstetrics and Gynaecology. January24, 2011. Symphysis pubis dysfunction: a practical approach to management.
- World Health Organization (WHO). September 19, 2019. Maternal mortality.