A common complaint from people with disabilities of all kinds is that they face a surprising amount of ignorance regarding how their disability does – or doesn’t – affect other aspects of their health. In focus groups, some doctors have admitted that they’d rather not have disabled patients and have gone out of their way not to treat them.
One area where doctors’ ignorance and false assumptions about a patient’s disability can be dangerous involves pregnancy. The potential harm can begin even before a woman gets pregnant if a doctor prescribes a medication that could be dangerous to a fetus without even asking if she is, could be or plans to get pregnant.
A doctor who specializes in fetal medicine gives the following example: “Physicians who provide care to moms who have seizure disorders…are commonly prescribing drugs that are not OK for the first trimester of pregnancy.”
Taking patients off of medications unnecessarily harm mothers and babies
On the flip side, OB-GYNs often tell pregnant patients with disabilities to stop taking medications they need to manage their condition without any understanding of whether the medication is actually harmful to a fetus, what will happen if their patient stops taking the medication and whether there are safer alternatives. Complications from stopping the medication can hurt mother and baby.
Disability rights advocates point out that less than 50 years ago, it was still legal in some cases to sterilize disabled women. In that sense, there’s been progress. Today, pregnancy rates among disabled women are about the same as those of women without disabilities.
Lack of information and false assumptions persist
However, there’s still, according to one professor of disability policy, a “lack of information and data” along with persistent false assumptions regarding disabled women and sexuality – even among doctors. That’s why disabled women and their babies still have an elevated risk of something going wrong during their pregnancy or childbirth.
It’s crucial to have doctors, including your OB-GYN, who understand your disability or are at least willing to learn and not make assumptions based on their own preconceived notions. Of course, not everyone has the option to find another doctor. If you or your baby has been harmed by negligence or errors that were preventable, it’s a good idea to seek legal guidance to learn more about your rights to justice and compensation.