Presentation Title

Labor and Delivery Experiences of Autistic Women: A narrative research study

Project Collaborators

Professor Laura Lewis (Faculty Mentor)

Abstract

Studies have shown autistic people experience challenges in sensory, cognitive, and social aspects in the healthcare setting. However, little is known about women with autism's experience with labor and delivery. This qualitative narrative analysis study aimed to explore the experience of women with autism during labor and delivery. A purposive sample of 16 autistic women shared 19 written birth stories via an online survey tool. Data were analyzed using Burke’s narrative analysis. Participants struggled with environmental distress due to sensory overload, lack of detailed education, struggling to understand the rationale behind decisions made by their healthcare team, and misinterpreting humor during childbirth. Modifications to clinical practice are indicated. It is important for healthcare providers to be aware of traits of autism, especially among this population as they often have difficulty receiving a formal diagnosis and are perceived as “coping well” or “hiding their autism.” Several suggestions emerged from the data, including, environmental modifications to reduce sensory overload and providing detailed education about the uncertainties of labor and delivery as these patients may exhibit rigid thinking, and deviation from the plan or expectations may cause anxiety and distress.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Laura Lewis

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Program/Major

Nursing

Primary Research Category

Health Sciences

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Labor and Delivery Experiences of Autistic Women: A narrative research study

Studies have shown autistic people experience challenges in sensory, cognitive, and social aspects in the healthcare setting. However, little is known about women with autism's experience with labor and delivery. This qualitative narrative analysis study aimed to explore the experience of women with autism during labor and delivery. A purposive sample of 16 autistic women shared 19 written birth stories via an online survey tool. Data were analyzed using Burke’s narrative analysis. Participants struggled with environmental distress due to sensory overload, lack of detailed education, struggling to understand the rationale behind decisions made by their healthcare team, and misinterpreting humor during childbirth. Modifications to clinical practice are indicated. It is important for healthcare providers to be aware of traits of autism, especially among this population as they often have difficulty receiving a formal diagnosis and are perceived as “coping well” or “hiding their autism.” Several suggestions emerged from the data, including, environmental modifications to reduce sensory overload and providing detailed education about the uncertainties of labor and delivery as these patients may exhibit rigid thinking, and deviation from the plan or expectations may cause anxiety and distress.