Pregnancy can be stressful at the best of times, but, for women with disabilities, knowing there could be serious complications can make it even more daunting.
Beth Whitby knew that pregnancy wasn’t going to be easy for her. She has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) – a degenerative disease which causes muscle weakness – so has always known that if she were able to carry a child it would be complicated.
Three years ago she began to feel a very strong desire to have children. She had been with her husband for a number of years and both her brothers had kids. But Beth needed to be realistic about her disability, and, determined that children were going to be a part of her life, she had begun to think surrogacy might be her best option.
When she found out she was pregnant in 2012, she really wanted to speak to other mothers with SMA to get advice, but this wasn’t easy as there aren’t very many. All she could find was a magazine article about another woman with the same disability who had a child. Other than this there wasn’t really any direct advice on how her pregnancy might go.
A further problem was that some people raised their eyebrows at her pregnancy. “I think there’s always an element of that,” she says. “It’s mind-blowing enough for some that I have a job and I drive let alone that I got married and have a baby.”
There were concerns for Beth’s health throughout the pregnancy – she has a small torso due to scoliosis surgery when she was 11, so as the baby grew inside her she was warned she would run out of space and may have breathing problems.
She had to see a consultant every couple of weeks and had more than the usual number of scans in order to keep a close eye on the baby’s size.
On top of this, at 33 weeks she was told she would need a planned caesarean section under general anaesthetic. “They’d hoped I’d reach 35 weeks but I ran out of space so she had to come out,” she says.