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Having knowledge about pregnancy and birth is important for reducing anxiety and becoming your own advocate. When I spoke with other Autistic parents about this one of the general themes that came up was wishing they knew more about their rights during the transition to parenthood.
You are likely to be offered several diagnostic tests during pregnancy from your first appointment with the midwife and continually until the early postnatal period. You have the right to accept or decline every one, if this is what you decide (this is not an endorsement to decline, just a statement of fact). This includes testing the urine, scans, blood tests, vaginal examinations, and fundal height (measuring the bump).
Your consent is needed for every piece of information being recorded about you and your pregnancy. This includes your BMI, the baby’s other parent’s details, details about your past, everything. Informed decisions can be made if you have a good knowledge base, it is useful to consider in advance what you may want to consent to and what you like more information on from health care professionals and what you may prefer to decline.
Many people find that Healthcare Professionals often use assumptive language. This can make it more challenging to realise what you have the right to be presented with a clear rationale, the right to hear alternatives and ultimately the right to decline. Our article about communicating with health care professionals during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period provides some guidance, plus some templates you may find helpful.
You have the right to have an advocate present at every appointment. COVID 19 has complicated some matters but ultimately your rights remain the same. You may be able to negotiate with your care provider for your advocate to physically accompany you. If this isn't seen as safe you can arrange to have your advocate present virtually, you can find template letters from AIMS here. Your advocate could be your partner, a trusted friend or family member or a doula.
You have the right to choose where you are going to birth your baby. In any labour the birthing person feeling safe, calm, in control, comfortable and protected is imperative for the birth to progress smoothly (Buckley 2009). Autistic people are likely to be more sensitive to their external environment, the body language and tone of voice of the others present. It can be advantageous to seriously consider where you feel safest and where might be best for you to birth.
Charities AIMS and Birthrights have more details about your rights in pregnancy and birth. Pregnant Then Screwed and can provide information and support around your employment rights in pregnancy and on parental leave, AIMS also have a useful article on this here.
In summary the pregnant person has total autonomy over their own body at all times. This means that all decisions lie with them alone. Knowing that the final decision is yours can be empowering but can also be overwhelming. Having a good foundation of knowledge or support from someone who does is invaluable to make informed decisions and advocate for your rights in pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Our article on research has more information on building knowledge and navigating the vast amount of information aimed at parents.34rftghj,