Maternity care experiences of women with learning disability

Women with learning disability have equal rights to maternity care that meets their needs, but many have poor pregnancy and birth outcomes compared to other women in the UK.

NPEU researchers Reem Malouf, Jenny McLeish, Ron Gray and Maggie Redshaw, with Sara Ryan of Oxford University’s Department of Primary Care, carried out an in-depth qualitative study to explore the maternity experiences of nine mothers with learning disability.

The mothers were very conscious of feeling different from other mothers. Most were pleased with their maternity care and liked their midwives, but some had been denied opportunities to make informed choices, or encountered disrespectful staff attitudes. Their experiences of communicating with professionals were also mixed: some described midwives taking time to explain things that the mothers found confusing, while others had encountered midwives who gave the impression that they were too busy to communicate effectively. The mothers were aware that to succeed as parents they needed to have good support from family or professionals, and several who had been well supported were flourishing. Others described the stress of having their parenting ability formally assessed immediately after birth, and their distress and guilt when they were not allowed to care for their babies.

Read the research in full in the BMJ Open