Pregnant women with autism are now being offered a series of support plans created to help them communicate about their care through pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period.
The series of plans have been developed by Karen Henry, an ESNEFT midwife who also has autism. Karen, based at Ipswich hospital, said: “As an autistic midwife I saw an opportunity to improve practice for autistic women accessing maternity services.
“As the number of young people diagnosed with autism increases, I feel the maternity service needs to prepare to meet the needs of autistic women accessing our care.
“I drew upon women’s narratives, plus experiences of caring for autistic women, to embark on creating a series of support plans to enhance maternity care for women with autism or those who have learning disabilities.”
Karen Henry, ESNEFT midwife
Karen, together with her maternity colleagues, developed three support plans: My Pregnancy Support Plan, My Birth Plan and Postnatal Information.
Women with autism may wish to outline certain aspects of their environment for antenatal appointments where they can be offered quieter times of the day, as well their wishes for labour, such as having a quiet space to give birth or one with lower lighting.
There is also the scope for a pregnant woman to request a planned visit to the maternity suite before labour to ease any anxieties.
Some of the pages included in the personal plans
Information about pregnancy, birth and what changes may happen after labour – including the emotions around becoming a mum and having a baby – are also shared in the support plans.
Karen added: “The idea for the plans is for them to open communication channels between the women and the maternity team.
“The antenatal support plan allows us to give women important information such as signs of being unwell, recognising fetal movements and what to expect at appointments in an easy-read format with supporting images for those who are visual learners.”
The plans are printed and the team are happy to receive feedback as they start being used.
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