Fertility And Disability

Many people with severe physical disabilities such as quadriplegia or other forms of paralysis believe that they will not be able to have their own children. This is not necessarily the case. Each case is unique, but recent news shows that even a man who is paralyzed and has a low sperm count can still father a child.

ICSI Treatment

Treated at one of the Shady Grove Fertility Clinics, located in the greater Washington D.C area,  Jennifer Sharp recently gave birth to an almost 8lb baby boy in December 2010. Because of her husband David's paralysis, Jennifer had to have IVF fertility treatment using the Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) method. Financial assistance was given by the Cade Foundation.

IUI

Women who don't have fertility problems themselves but are partners of men with severe spinal cord injuries, like quadriplegia, may nevertheless benefit from being treated with clomiphene citrate and hCG. This research, published in Fertility and Sterility, found that women's chances of conception were higher if the IUI procedure was delayed until some 38-40 hours after the women were treated with these hormonal drugs.

Women With Paralysis

A woman with paralysis and no other fertility issues can conceive naturally, the same as any other woman, and the indications of pregnancy are just the same! You can even deliver naturally too, as a woman paralyzed from the waist down found when her labor started early. She gave birth at home, a month early, with the assistance of the 911 operator, her husband and the paramedics. Obviously, this wasn't an ideal situation, but it shows that even a home birth may be possible, although most women with paralysis would probably prefer the security of a hospital delivery. Many doctors may also prefer to do a c-section to be on the safe side, rather than let you give birth naturally.

If you have fertility problems, you may find it difficult to get fertility treatment. Some doctors are prejudiced against women with severe disabilities because they believe it will be dangerous for you to be pregnant. They might also be reluctant to give you fertility treatment if they think you won't be able to care properly for a child. You may also find that your insurance plan doesn't cover either fertility treatment or pregnancy. However, there may be a sympathetic clinic or charitable organization that will help you, so don't give up without getting a second opinion, or trying a different insurance plan.

Women With Other Disabilities

Fertility treatment may not be covered on your insurance plan if you have a disability, so unless you are able to pay for treatment yourself you may be deprived of the pleasure of having your own children. In November 2003, a blind woman lost a discrimination case against a fertility clinic (in the Denver US District Court) who refused her treatment because they required 'proof' her ability to care for a child. She was later able to find a fertility clinic that would treat her and gave birth to a little girl.

Attitudes are changing though. For example, women suffering from MS used to be advised not to get pregnant, but nowadays doctors see no reason why MS sufferers can't have children.

Medications

Some medications for certain conditions can interfere with your ability to get conceive. If you are having fertility problems, ask your specialist's advice about your chances of having a baby before going for fertility treatment. You could save yourself time, money and disappointment.

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