“There are so many ways for a spinal cord injury person to become a parent. If pregnancy does not appeal to you as a SCI person or it just may not work, there are many other options, such as adoption or surrogacy,” says Patty Kunze, a nurse and wheelchair user who researched these options for aspiring moms on wheels.
“Being a Labor and Delivery RN and a Neonatal Intensive Nurse, I have seen my share of unforeseen difficulties with women who were able to walk and delivering a baby. Pregnancy can be difficult whether or not you are paralyzed.”
Requirements for women with spinal cord injury who want to be pregnant:
- An obstetrician that is on board (if your’s isn’t, find a new one!)
- A strong support system
- Awareness of your own body to gauge potential complications (including autonomic dysreflexia and urinary tract infections)
Complications to be aware of and monitor during pregnancy:
- Urinary issues including frequency, infections and incontinence
- Skin issues (remember you’ll have baby weight to consider!)
- Breathing issues, including a collapsed lung or pneumonia
- Loss of independence (worse towards the end of pregnancy with added weight, difficult transfers, etc.)
- Blood clots
- Autonomic dyreflexia, mostly during labor, delivery and postpartum
- Blood pressure changes, if it is low generally, it can get lower during pregnancy
It’s best to be informed and monitor going forward so there are no surprises.
For those who aren’t interested in pregnancy or for whom it’s not an option, there is also adoption and surrogacy.
Exploring adoption and surrogacy as a woman with paralysis
Adoption requires a lot of independent research due to the different rules and regulations based on where you live. Patty found Adopting.org to be very useful for those who aspire to be adoptive parents to get a sense of the process, options and cost. Most importantly, remember to do due diligence on agencies.
As for surrogacy, there are two options. Traditional surrogacy involves a surrogate mother being artificially inseminated with the father’s or donor’s sperm. Gestational surrogacy involves removing the egg from the intended mother, fertilized with the sperm of the father or donor and then carried by the surrogate. Each option has its own costs, regulations and laws depending on where you live, so again, do your research.
Patty lastly has words of wisdom for all aspiring moms on wheels, “However you decide to expand your family, remember there are many ways to become FIT, FABULOUS, and EXPECTING. Investigate for yourself and have a BLAST choosing the option that works best for you!!”
Check out these pregnancy stories of three wheelchair moms!