Mamazine Moment, Pregnancy, Uncategorized, Wellness

Neurodivergence and Birthing: Adapting Support to Meet Sensorial Needs

Leona Hariharan, Mama Glow Foundation Fellow & Brown University Student | December 3, 2022

The term neurodiversity was originally coined by Judy Singer, an autistic sociologist, who wanted to confront the idea that neurodevelopmental conditions needed to be fixed or people with needs outside the norm were damaged. Neurodiversity is essentially the idea that there is a natural variation in the ways that we are able to engage with the world and each other, and it is both productive and equitable to center access and quality of life needs for people with this identity. No matter what, pregnancy and motherhood looks different for everyone, but it’s important to think about how we as birthworkers can uniquely support our neurodivergent clients and also open the door for more neurodivergent birthworkers. By becoming educated in neurodivergence and being aware of potential difficulties our clients may face, we can achieve this goal.

Access to Information: Women/genderqueer people with traits of neurodivergence often receive their diagnoses later in life because they don’t fit the “typical” symptoms of the disorder. Women often go through childhood, birth, and even several years of motherhood before everfinding out. This means that there is not much information available about the experiences of pregnant neurodivergent people. Generally, it’s helpful to think about day to day challenges and how they might be exacerbated by pregnancy.

Sensitivity to sensory stimuli: Many neurodivergent people normally experience sensitivity to sounds, smells, tastes, and more. Naturally, many birthing people experience heightened sensitivity to these things during pregnancy, so it may be even more intense for neurodivergent people. It’s helpful to open the lines of communication around sensory stimulation and also come up with a plan on how we can lower sensory stimulation in the birthing room and when the baby is born.

Neurodivergent people are all around us, and they are giving birth everyday. They have spent their whole lives adapting and innovating to create a world that meets their needs. Now, as birthworkers supporting our clients through their pregnancy journey, we are called upon to make reproductive justice spaces more inclusive and work to ensure they meet the needs of all people.

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