I think, beyond some extra challenges such as preventing pressure sores, dealing with increased symptoms of neuropathy or dysautonomia, and some of the specific considerations that arise when it comes to labor and delivery for people with spinal cord injuries, pregnancy is not much different than it is for non-paralyzed people.
In a way, it’s a great equalizer. Non-disabled women suddenly experience what it’s like to have overactive bladder and constipation, limited mobility and trouble with positioning, muscle and join pain, swelling, reliance or increased dependence on others, possible complications, frustration over a changing body, and other challenges that us wheelers are already accustomed to.
I think this is why my obstetrician told me that because of my disability, I was already equipped for the challenges of pregnancy. And I think this is an encouraging takeaway for all woman with SCI who want to have a baby, but might be fearful of this vastly underrepresented topic.
Don’t underestimate yourself. Your body is meant to do this, even if it’s paralyzed. That’s kind of amazing and powerful, right? And trust me, I know it’s true because I’m a quadriplegic (c5/6) and I’m not only pregnant for the first time, but I’m currently carrying twins.
That’s not to say it’s been easy, even though my pregnancy so far has been free of major complications (and most of those potential complications, by the way, are more serious due to the nature of a multiples pregnancy, not due to SCI, as my doctor informed me!).
Here are some of the tough aspects for me so far:
– Morning sickness brought me to my knees. I’ve handled surgeries and all the horrible stuff that goes with SCI, but nausea was a special kind of torture that I personally did not tolerate well. Luckily, it ended after the first trimester.
– Low blood pressure. Thanks to added stress on an already broken autonomic nervous system, I’ve had a super tough time with severe lightheadedness.
– Random cold sweats and muscle pain
– Transferring is difficult, so is bed mobility.
– I’ve given up on my bladder. It’s just going to be incontinent the rest of this pregnancy.
– Pregnancy-related anemia has caused tremendous fatigue. It has been tough to be productive.
– Worrying about things like possible early labor, knowing the signs of labor and distinguishing spasms from contractions, and some paranoia about getting blood clots, autonomic dysreflexia, or UTI’s (all three totally preventable via meds.)
And here are some of the amazing aspects:
– Unlike chronic spinal cord injury, pregnancy is temporary
– I was used to feeling like the physical underdog, but now actually feel equal to other women. Our pregnancy experiences are relatable.
– I can feel my babies kicking and moving and occasionally see the movement on my belly. This is the only time in my life I’ll ever experience these moments.
– I’m making humans! It’s mind blowing.
– I’m ridiculously excited over their arrival. I can’t wait to meet, cuddle, and take care of them.
– Thinking of all the fun things we will get to do together in the future. – Nesting and baby clothes shopping!
– Using creativity to come up with adaptive tools that will help when they are born.
– Bonding with other pregnant moms.
In a nutshell, that’s what it’s been like for me being pregnant and paralyzed. If you want more insight or would like to read about how my labor and delivery go (6 more weeks, ahhhhh!!) you can visit my blog daniizzie.com or social media handles under @daniizzie.