If you’re a person with a physical disability, you’re likely used to facing just as much ignorance of that disability in some medical settings as you experience from non-medical professionals. That can be particularly true when you’re seeing a doctor who doesn’t specialize in the condition causing their disability.
One area where a doctor’s lack of knowledge about a patient’s disability and false assumptions around it can be dangerous involves pregnancy. In fact, that danger can begin before a woman even becomes pregnant.
Lack of knowledge around medications
Doctors who assume that a patient with a physical disability can’t get pregnant or even have sex may prescribe a medication for a young woman that can harm a fetus without first asking if she’s pregnant or planning to get pregnant. One fetal medicine specialist notes, “Physicians who provide care to moms who have seizure disorders…are commonly prescribing drugs that are not OK for the first trimester of pregnancy….without thinking, this is a young woman who may become pregnant.”
On the other hand, some doctors instruct their pregnant patients to stop taking medications they need for their medical condition when they may be perfectly safe to continue taking or for which a safe alternative is available. A little research would prevent this mistake, which can be dangerous for the patient and the fetus.
Lack of information for those who treat pregnant, disabled women
As the pregnancy progresses and during and after childbirth, the problems can mount if an OB-GYN doesn’t understand how (or if) the mother’s disability is special. One professor of disability policy points out that even though disabled women have about the same rates of pregnancy as non-disabled ones, there’s a “lack of information and data” to help doctors treat pregnant, disabled women and their unborn babies.
While the medical community has come a long way from the days when disabled people could legally be sterilized against their will, it still has a long way to go. If you and/or your baby was harmed by the negligence or actions of a doctor or other medical professional, find out what options you have for seeking justice and compensation.