Disability and Pregnancy

Nearly one in eight pregnancies in Ontario are to people with a disability; however, pregnancy care is not often structured to address their needs. In 2022, PCMCH collaborated with researchers from the University of Toronto to develop evidence-based resources to support healthy pregnancies, birthing experiences and postpartum outcomes for people with disabilities. In 2023, PCMCH collaborated with Dr. Anne Berndl and Elizabeth Jung from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Accessible Care Pregnancy Clinic to develop a toolkit for healthcare professionals caring for pregnant individuals with physical disabilities.

Resources for Healthcare Administrators, Healthcare Providers, and People and Parents with Disabilities

These resources were informed by studies conducted by an international team of researchers and in partnership with a dedicated Advisory Committee comprised of individuals with lived experience, health and social service providers, and policymakers. The studies included health data from 200,205 women with disabilities and 1.6 million women without disabilities with births in Ontario, as well as interviews with 31 women with disabilities and 31 healthcare service providers and administrators.

They contain tailored information for healthcare administrators, healthcare providers and people with disabilities who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or recently postpartum. Each describes potential barriers to pregnancy care and complications, as well as providing recommendations and other resources that can help administrators, healthcare providers and parents with disabilities address health challenges, as well as social and system barriers to achieve and maintain healthy pregnancies and postpartum health.


Disability and Pregnancy: Accessible Care Planning Toolkit

This toolkit includes a Comprehensive Pregnancy Care Checklist and a Complex Case Conference Template. The Comprehensive Pregnancy Care Checklist can be used as a guide when considering potential aspects of care needed for individuals with physical disabilities during pregnancy. It was developed in a person-centred manner with input from people with physical disabilities, community leaders, and an interdisciplinary team of care providers. The Complex Case Conference Template is designed to guide interdisciplinary case conferences for those with medical complexity.

These tools were adapted and revised to ensure their applicability in different care settings by healthcare providers caring for pregnant individuals with physical disabilities. Recognizing that rural, remote, and community care providers may lack access to some of the resources noted in the checklist, the toolkit is designed as a guide for providers to initiate conversations and create a tailored plan for pregnancy care that that is reflective of the care needs of each pregnant individual with a physical disability.

PCMCH is committed to fostering equity, diversity and inclusion within the perinatal healthcare system, and developed these resources with the intention that they will further health equity for people with disabilities.



Creating an Accessible Care Environment for Individuals with Disabilities During Pregnancy and Birth

Presented on Dec. 15, 2023, this webinar shares an individual's lived experience of pregnancy and childbirth while concurrently having a physical disability, reviews systemic healthcare barriers, and identifies care needs for pregnant individuals and families living with a physical disability. This webinar also examines the model of care and key components of an interprofessional, family-centered care team approach used in a dedicated antenatal clinic, and describes how to apply aspects of care to one's own practice in order to enhance the quality of care for pregnant individuals living with physical disabilities.


Diana Drake: Bachelor of Physical Education; Bachelor of Education; Devoted new Mom; Advocate for the Disability Community; Dr. Anne Berndl: Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist; Director of the Accessible Care Pregnancy Clinic, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; Elizabeth Jung: Advanced Practice Nurse, Accessible Care Pregnancy Clinic, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Play the webinar recording