Women With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Have Nearly Double the Rate of Repeat Pregnancy
Pregnancy and childbirth are wondrous, but they are incredibly physically demanding. Postpartum recovery can take a year or more, and many women find that their mental and emotional recovery take even longer. Experts recommend waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies, to give yourself plenty of time to recover. Additionally, rapid repeat pregnancy is associated with risks and complications. Having a baby within a year of a previous live birth can lead to low birth weight, premature birth, and miscarriage and neonatal death. However, a new study shows that the rate of repeat pregnancy is incredibly high in one particular demographic. Women with intellectual and developmental disabilities are nearly twice as likely to have a rapid repeat pregnancy.
Researchers found that the rate of repeat pregnancy is significantly higher in women with disabilities like autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, Women’s College Research Institute, ICES, and St. Michael’s Hospital and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario. They analyzed data from 2,855 women with intellectual disabilities. The data was compared with women without such disabilities. Women in both groups had a live birth between 2002 and 2013.
7.6% of women with intellectual or developmental disabilities had a rapid repeat pregnancy. To compare, 3.9% of women without those disabilities had a baby within a year of live birth.
Hilary Brown is an adjunct scientist at Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and lead author of the study. Brown says, “Women with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely than those without such disabilities to be young and disadvantaged in each marker of social, health, and health care disparities. They experience high rates of poverty and chronic physical and mental illness, and have poor access to primary care.”
The study highlights that efforts to promote reproductive health may be falling short for these women. The higher rate of repeat pregnancy among women with intellectual or developmental disabilities is concerning for so many reasons.
(Image: iStock / Vera_Petrunina)