Current evidence on antenatal care provision for women with intellectual disabilities: A systematic review

Claire Homeyard, Elsa Montgomery, Deborah Chinn, Evridiki Patelarou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: changing attitudes, alongside integration, more independent living and recognition of rights to family life have meant a steady rise in women with intellectual disabilities becoming pregnant. However, existing evidence shows that women with intellectual disabilities are less likely to seek or attend for regular antenatal care. This population experiences poorer maternal wellbeing and worse pregnancy outcomes compared to the general population, including preterm and low-birthweight babies.

PURPOSE: to identify and review the existing evidence on the provision of antenatal care among women with intellectual disabilities.

METHODS: a systematic search strategy was formulated using key Medical Sub-Headings terms and related text words for pregnancy, antenatal care and intellectual disability. Comprehensive searches dating back to 1980 using pre-determined criteria followed by a hand search of reference lists and citations were undertaken. Data were extracted using a data extraction form and methodological quality assessed using the framework developed by Caldwell et al. (2011). A three stage textual narrative synthesis was used to integrate the findings from the included studies.

RESULTS: searches identified 16 papers that met the inclusion criteria. A majority of the papers focused on women's experience of pregnancy and antenatal care with a paucity of papers identified on midwives knowledge and experience. The four broad themes of the analysis and synthesis performed included: In the Family Way ('I've a baby inside. I've got a life inside of me.׳); Knowledge and advocacy ('...everyone was looking at one another and no one was talking to me...'); Midwives educational needs ('...helpful to have guidance...') and Midwives Attitudes ('...women with [intellectual disabilities]...should not be pregnant').

KEY CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: significant gaps in the evidence base were apparent, however evidence was identified which showed that intellectually disabled pregnant women struggle to understand antenatal information communicated during pregnancy which was often text based. Maternity care providers need to make adjustments to their services so that antenatal communication, information and care is appropriate for this group of women. Midwives identified that they lacked knowledge in this area and wanted antenatal guidance on how to meet the care and communication needs of women with intellectual disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-57
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Maternal Health
  • Midwifery/education
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Persons with Mental Disabilities
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Care/methods


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