Few formal studies have been done on parenting concerns among women with disabilities, but parental networks and dissemination of occupational therapy-based information have been increasing to share experiences and provide practical support.
Women with chronic conditions that tend to relapse after childbirth, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, may need to plan for additional assistance with newborn care. Women with physical disabilities generally are able to breastfeed as long as they consult with their physicians about the safety of medications that may reach the baby. The let-down reflex necessary for breastfeeding usually functions even in women with paralysis.
Studies indicate that partners of women with disabilities tend to take on more equal responsibilities in child care than do partners of able-bodied women, yet they do not perceive that they have more child care responsibilities than fathers or other partners of able-bodied women.
Mothers with spinal cord injuries reported in a study that there were no differences in family members' relationships or roles, and their children were as able to participate in activities as other children when compared to other families. The children did not perceive their mothers as any different from other mothers because of their spinal cord injury. Books and newsletters studying and documenting the experiences of parents with disabilities with pregnancy and parenting have been published, often by parents and rehabilitation specialists who are themselves parents with disabilities.
For more information, visit Through the Looking Glass, a center for research, training and services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability or medical issue.