Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Assistant Professor Helps Make Pregnancy More Accessible

Dec 12, 2018

Dr. Anne Berndl on Challenges & ChangeAssistant Professor Dr. Anne Berndl on Challenges & Change For a woman with a physical disability, pregnancy and parenting can sometimes be a worrying possibility. However, a clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is aiming to increase comfort and confidence for these women who decide to have children.

The Accessible Care Pregnancy Clinic was opened in March 2017 thanks to the tireless work of Assistant Professor Dr. Anne Berndl and her team. This clinic is one of the first in North America with a specific purpose of caring for pregnant women with physical disabilities. So far, the clinic has had approximately 50 referrals with very positive outcomes. The majority of pregnant women at the clinic were in good health after birth, with their babies being born at term. There have also been women who have returned to the clinic to have their second child.

“It’s really lovely to see some return customers come to see us,” said Dr. Berndl in an interview with journalist Craig Oliver on Challenges & Change.

After working with children and women with physical disabilities, Dr. Berndl noticed the stigmas surrounding this segment of the population, especially when it came to pregnancy and parenting. Pregnancy for women with physical disabilities is usually not celebrated in the same way as other women, with many people expressing concerns about the safety of both mother and baby. However, Dr. Berndl said these assumptions are not always true.

“The vast majority of women with physical disabilities can have a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery. And so I felt it was really important to have a place that a women with a physical disability could go to get access to pregnancy care in a place where there was good information for her and was accessible.”

Dr. Berndl believes that the clinic is different than others because the care is consolidated into one place. Instead of having to travel to different clinics or hospitals to receive care that is accessible, patients can have access to the correct equipment and specialists in one place, such as an accessible ultrasound for women in wheelchairs.

“It’s a one stop shop for that woman to come in,” said Dr. Berndl. “And it means that she knows that the team is communicating with each other.”

The team at the clinic, while caring for their patients, are also currently working on a number of research projects relating to pregnant women with physical disabilities, including research into including this topic in the curriculum for new obstetricians and gynaecologists. Dr. Berndl has noticed in their studies that ObGyn residents are very interested in more information on this topic, to better prepare them in caring for future patients with these particular needs.

As the clinic is doing so well, Dr. Berndl and her team hopes that the plan of care they are developing can be used by other hospitals, doctors and clinics so that pregnancy care can be accessible to everyone in the very near future.

“I enjoy so much working with the team that we have because everyone is so enthusiastic. This is a project that’s really been near and dear to my heart.”

Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Berndl on the Accessible Media Inc website.

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