Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the everyday life experiences and perspectives on challenges related to pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood when living with neuromuscular disorders (NMDs) and identify important elements to take into consideration for parents and their health professionals.
Materials and methods: In all, 27 people (17 with a NMD and 10 partners without a NMD) were included in this study. The participants were all parents or expecting parents. Both mothers and fathers and ambulant and non-ambulant participants were included to broaden the perspective. Three types of semi-structured interviews were applied. The analysis was guided by the Interpretive Description methodology and Antonovsky's Sense of Coherence theory.
Results: The findings illuminated insights to ongoing challenges in the everyday lives of parents with NMD. Enforced Dilemmas represented guilt and dilemmas on the possibility of passing on the NMD. Reflections on Bodily Ability symbolized the effect that pregnancy and parenthood had on the body. Concept of Normality signified the concerns the parents had about "not being normal enough." Experience of Dependency addressed being dependent on others and No One to Emulate how the rarity of the NMD made it difficult to find peers or seek advice.
Conclusion: The study emphasizes the importance of the professionals providing counseling and support on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood either during consultations, online or in structured professional and peer-support rehabilitation groups for expecting parents or for new parents with a NMD.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONProfessionals must provide knowledge and counselling on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood to support families with NMD who are expecting a child or have already become parents and address the illusion of normal.Professional centralized and specialized units where people with NMD can get advice on pregnancy and give birth should be an option.Structured professional and peer-support rehabilitation groups (physical meetings or online) on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood may be of value for the parents due to the rarity of the diagnosis.Online information and knowledge on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood and NMD should be widely available.Health professionals and peers can help ensure and support an experience of comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness among the parents with NMD and develop rehabilitation services that meet the needs and preferences of people considering getting a child or who are already parents with NMDs or other disabilities.
Keywords: Parenthood; disability; interpretive description; neuromuscular disorder; qualitative research; rehabilitation.