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Experiences of Autistic Women During and After Pregnancy

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

In this post, you will read about how the experience and expression of autistic characteristics may change during and after pregnancy. For related posts, you may wish to read Let's Bust the Myth that Autism Looks the Same Across the Lifespan, Puberty and Autisic Behaviors, and Variations in the Experience and Expression of Autistic Characteristics During Menstruation

Autism is a neurologic condition. As such, the characteristics may show a degree of fluctuation based on the physical condition of the body and brain. AUTISTIC WOMEN AND PREGNANCY Marcia Gardner and her team (2016) published survey information gathered from a sample of women on the spectrum about their experiences of pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood. One of the themes was heightened sensory sensitivities, a finding also reported during puberty, menstruation, and menopause. Although it is common for neurotypical women to describe increased sensitivity to smells during pregnancy, ASD women may experience more global sensitivities (e.g., touch, lights, noise, sound discrimination). A second finding was that many of the autistic women plunged into very intense research about pregnancy, birth, and child development. The intensity of their focus sometimes caused great worry about minor symptoms. Some even described a feeling of failure if their medical exam revealed elevated blood sugar, protein in the urine, or more than expected weight gain. BIRTH AND MOTHERHOOD Many of the women identified a third area of concern related to feelings of lack of control, particularly during labor and delivery. The multiple unknown variables that make up the birth process felt overwhelming to try to anticipate. Some of the mothers wished they had developed a more specific birth plan so they could experience a sense of control over the process. Finally, some reported uncertainty about their ability to determine what their infants needed at any given moment. Others felt guilty for not finding motherhood as "enjoyable" as other women seem to describe.

Attending to the needs of autistic adults includes exploring the variability of autistic characteristics across the lifespan, and identifying individualized supports during specific life seasons.

Exploratory Study of Childbearing Experiences of Women with Asperger Syndrome Gardner, MarciaSuplee, Patricia D.Bloch, JoanLecks, Karen et al. Nursing for Women's Health, Volume 20, Issue 1, 28 - 37, 2016

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