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Working for change

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 10: Pregnancy > Working for change

a woman using sign language.
Women with disabilities have much the same concerns as other women who are pregnant. We want to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
What families and caregivers can do:
  • Help us get enough food and rest.
  • Be positive about the pregnancy.
  • Make sure we get prenatal care and go with us to get exams.
  • Be of assistance any time.
What midwives, doctors, and other health workers can do:

Health workers will be able to help us if we start going to see them early in our pregnancy, or even before we are pregnant. Because very few doctors, nurses, midwives, and other health workers have experience caring for women with disabilities, we can help them learn what is natural for us and how our disabilities may (or may not) affect pregnancy. Health workers can also:

  • learn about possible problems a woman with a disability may (or may not) have during pregnancy.
  • be aware of things we can do. For example, do not assume we cannot have a vaginal birth. Remember, that just because a woman may have a disability, it does not mean her womb is damaged. Even if her body and legs are paralyzed, her womb will still be able to contract and push out a baby.
  • organize a group for women with disabilities for advice on eating well, medicines and health exams during pregnancy.
  • make sure we have easy-to-use health care during pregnancy.

Women with disabilities improve health access in Uganda

The Disabled Women’s Network and Resource Organization in Uganda (DWNRO) works to help health professionals become more aware of the needs of women with disabilities. Their main concerns are accessibility, availability, and attitude. For example, when pregnant women with disabilities are treated poorly by hospital staff, they lose self-confidence and do not go back for prenatal care. They can have problems with the pregnancy later, or with the birth, that could have been prevented with regular checkups.

a health worker greeting a disabled woman in a clinic while 2 other women whisper.
Come inside, Sara. I am ready for you.
I didn’t think a woman like her could have a baby.

The DWNRO held regional workshops for doctors and midwives on the lack of access to hospital wards and services, such as postnatal care, weighing scales, exam tables, and adequate communication with deaf and blind women. Some hospitals have made wards more accessible, and a deaf women’s group recently trained a groups of midwives in sign language. The DWNRO is now working to make women with disabilities aware of these services so they will demand them.