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Women with intellectual disability at risk of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes


  • Author note: This research was supported by the Health Research Foundation, Sydney South West. To the best of the authors' knowledge, no restrictions are imposed on the publication of results from this study. The authors had no conflict of interest, financial or non-financial.

Dr. David McConnell, 3-69 Corbett hall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2G4 (e-mail:


Background  An increasing number of women with intellectual disability (ID) have children. Cross-sectional, clinical population data suggest that these women face an increased risk of delivering preterm and/or low birthweight babies. The aim of this study was to explore the prevalence of poor pregnancy and birth outcomes in women with ID and/or self-reported learning difficulties in an antenatal population.

Methods  A total of 878 pregnant women attending their first antenatal clinic visit were ‘screened’ for ID. Pregnancy and birth outcomes data were extracted from medical records post-partum. These data included pregnancy-related health conditions, including pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, and birth outcomes, including gestational age, birthweight, Apgar score and admission to neonatal intensive care and/or special care nursery.

Results  A total of 57 (6.5%) pregnant women with ID and/or self-reported learning difficulties were identified. These women experienced an unusually high rate of pre-eclampsia (odds ratio = 2.85). Their children more often had low birthweights (odds ratio = 3.08), and they were more frequently admitted to neonatal intensive care or special care nursery (odds ratio = 2.51).

Conclusion  Further research is needed to understand the reasons for the adverse findings of this study and identify potentially changeable factors contributing to adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes for women with ID and/or self-reported learning difficulties and their children. To ensure quality antenatal care, health professionals may need to consider innovations such as extended consultation times, communication aids and audio-taping consultations.