Childbirth and motherhood in women with motor disability due to a rare condition: an exploratory study

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2021 Apr 13;16(1):176. doi: 10.1186/s13023-021-01810-8.


Background: Rare diseases may result in motor impairment, which in turn may affect parenthood. Our purpose was to evaluate perinatal outcomes, parenting needs, mother-infant interactions and infant development in a set of volunteer women with motor impairment due to a rare disease. In a parenting support institution, we recruited a consecutive series of 22 volunteer pregnant women or young mothers, recorded perinatal outcomes, and followed mother-infant interaction and relationship and infant development up to 14 months postpartum. Cases with intellectual or psychic disability were not included.

Results: There were 11 genetic diseases (2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, 1 Charcot-Marie-Tooth, 1 autosomal dominants myopathy, 1 mitochondrial disease, 2 Elhers-Danlos, 1 Friedreich ataxia, 1 spinocerebellar ataxia, 1 tetrahydrobiopterine deficiency,1 Ectrodactyly), and 11 rare non-genetic conditions (2 spine tumors, 2 strokes, 1 juvenile chronic arthritis, 3 birth injuries, 1 inflammatory myopathy, 1 congenital amputation, and 1 traumatic amputation). These resulted in 10 impairments of four limbs, 4 impairments of both lower limbs, 7 unilateral impairments, and one distal tremor. Social deprivation Epices score, Cutrona social support scale, Edinburg Postnatal Depression scale, and Spielberger State/Trait Anxiety Inventory were unremarkable. Perinatal outcome: 4 gestational diabetes, 1 pre-eclampsia, 9 caesareans, 6 assisted and 7 spontaneous vaginal deliveries, 20 term live-births and 2 premature deliveries (35-36 weeks). Twelve women declared they were self-sufficient for daily activities; six declared they were self-sufficient to provide basic care to their baby. Distribution of the Brunet-Lezine child development score was normal. The parent-infant relationship global assessment scale (PIR-GAS) was well adapted in 2 cases, adapted in 8, perturbed in 7, significantly perturbed in 2, and distressed in 3 (mean 71.8; 95% CI 49.6-93.9). This was unrelated to any somatic or emotional characteristics of the participants. Coding interactive behavior revealed that infant engagement was lower and infant avoidance greater than in controls (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Infant development was normal, but mother-infant interactions were altered in half of the participants independently from the degree of motor impairment, underscoring the need for parenting support, even for parents who are self-sufficient in daily activities.

Keywords: Birth; Child development; Disability; Motherhood; Motor impairment Tetraplegia Hemiplegia  Amputation; Parent-infant interaction and relationship; Rare disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Depression, Postpartum*
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Motor Disorders*
  • Parenting
  • Pregnancy