Disability Related to Pregnancy: Common Causes


Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in a woman's life, leading to a bundle of joy at the end and growth of family. Most pregnancies do not result in a woman becoming disabled, however the possibility exists. This article will go through a few different possible conditions related to disability in pregnancy and tips for avoidance if possible. 

Musculoskeletal Conditions

Back and pelvic pain are incredibly common conditions in pregnancy.

These types of pains are related to the changing biomechanics of the body during pregnancy and to the stretching of ligamentous attachments due to hormonal changes. Most women experience some degree of pelvic or back pain during pregnancy but this is usually manageable. Some however, experience pain to a much more significant degree causing disability. 

Pain is usually located in the low back or in the pelvis just above the buttocks. This can represent actual pelvic pain or sacroiliac joint pain. Women can also have pelvic pain in the front of the pelvis. This pain can be managed by the use of acetaminophen, rest, and exercises as prescribed by a physical therapist. If severe, a woman may need to stay off of her feet for a longer period of time or reduce the amount of time she spends on her feet, leading to the diagnosis of disability. 

To prevent these pains from becoming disabling, working with your doctor or other health professional to manage it early on can be helpful.

Activity modification to avoid positions that aggravate this pain is important. Keeping a consistent activity level during the entire pregnancy by walking, swimming, or other low impact exercise can be very helpful in prevention of musculoskeletal pain. 

Pregnancy Induced Hypertension and Related Conditions

Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are those that involve high blood pressure and include preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, and eclampsia. Ten to twenty percent of women will experience one of these disorders during pregnancy. They can be very mild to very severe on the spectrum of disorders and have the potential to cause disability in pregnancy due to their potential to cause a woman to require bed rest and hospitalization during her pregnancy to treat symptoms. 

Mild cases of hypertensive disorders are able to be treated with medications and diet to help bring down maternal blood pressure. Unfortunately, more severe cases can only be treated with delivery of the baby. This can lead to unexpected maternity leave or a longer term of maternity leave to due complications of a high risk birth. For this reason, short term disability may be required for some women in this situation. 

Preterm Labor and Related Conditions

Preterm labor can result from a variety of conditions including infection, bleeding (placental abruption), premature rupture of membranes, excessive fluid (polyhydramnios), and others.

In the United States, about 12% of babies are born prior to 37 weeks gestation, or full term. Preterm labor can result in significant disability as it can lead to lengthy periods of bed rest and inability to work. 

Prevention of preterm labor is tricky because there are so many potential causes. Excellent prenatal care as advised by your obstetrician is the best way to monitor for signs of risk factors in preterm labor. Maintaining good hygiene is important to prevent vaginal infections. Maintaining proper fluid hydration can also prevent dehydration related preterm labor. 

Pregnancy related disability is usually relatively unpredictable but can be managed with proper self care and financial planning. If disabled due to pregnancy, be sure to meet with a social worker to assist you with resource management. 

Continue Reading