Women with cerebral palsy struggle to find access to preventative health care. Despite laws in the US that are intended to ensure access to physical spaces, many doctor’s offices and hospitals still lack accessible patient rooms and equipment (adjustable tables, lifts and accessible mammography machines) that would allow proper examinations of people with physical disabilities like cerebral palsy.

All women need to have access to Pap smears and mammograms! They may need to research nearby hospitals and clinics that provide these services, or, ask for accommodations to ensure regular examinations and testing.

For more information about healthcare access under ADA you may wish to contact the ADA National network: https://adata.org

Cerebral Palsy and Women’s Health: Pregnancy

Young women with cerebral palsy need to be asked the same questions about sexuality and interest in pregnancy as individuals without disabilities. In fact, most women with disabilities, including cerebral palsy, are medically capable of having children and even having a vaginal delivery (as opposed to a c-section) but often aren’t asked about their interest in having a child.

The answer to whether pregnancy is a consideration impacts access to resources and the individual’s reproductive health. Women with cerebral palsy need to understand the impact of their disability during childbearing and have access to the resources they need.

If the individual has epilepsy or other associated or additional medical conditions, it’s important for the clinician to discuss potential risks and the impact of medication that is being taken to treat these conditions since they may affect conception or the development of the fetus[1] .

Pregnant women with cerebral palsy can be supported during their pregnancy and post-partum by having access to to physical and occupational therapy professionals. Sometimes during pregnancy, a woman with cerebral palsy may experience a loss in mobility and they could be at increased risk for falling or impaired balance[2] . Therapists can help with providing strength and balance exercises and may recommend assistive mobility devices during the pregnancy and periods of reduced mobility[3].

Disparities in healthcare for people with disabilities, particularly women, is a critical health issue. Below is a comprehensive research brief published by the ADA national network that discusses this issue and the attention it needs.

https://adata.org/research_brief/research-brief-health-care-access-and-ada

For more information regarding cerebral palsy and women’s health, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.

References and Sources
  1. Miller, F., & Bachrach, S. J. (2017). In Cerebral palsy a complete guide for caregiving (2nd ed., p. 71). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. doi:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2083126/
  2. Hayward, K., Chen, A., Forbes, E., Byrne, R., Greenberg, M., & Fowler, E. (2017, July). Reproductive healthcare experiences of women with cerebral palsy. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28428111/
  3. SC;, S. (2007, January/February). Pregnancy in women with physical disabilities. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17238953/
  4. Rogers, J., Matsumura, M., & Rogers, J. (2006). The disabled woman’s guide to pregnancy and birth. New York: Demos. doi:https://www.amazon.com/Disabled-Womans-Guide-Pregnancy-Birth/dp/1932603085/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1623788532&sr=1-3