The Road to Motherhood…


Many of these women will have babies independently and the old fashioned way, via cesarean or natural birth.  The number of woman on social media who are pregnant on wheels is like a positive epidemic. These ladies are making love and making babies! Of course, these days, we can share the news, progress, and images every step of the way. This gives hope, inspiration, and courage to those who are following. We learn what crib to buy, what’s the best way to carry a child while rolling, and all the details that give new moms an edge. Who needs a book when we can watch and learn via private Facebook groups and blogs, such as:

Some of the health complications that a woman with a mobility disability such as paralysis might experience during pregnancy include: low blood pressure, urinary tract or kidney infections, pressure sores due to increased weight, and autonomic dysreflexia (a condition that dangerously raises blood pressure in response to pain stimuli below the level of injury). In addition, she may experience reduced or total inability to perform normal daily activities such as dressing, transferring to a toilet, bathing, or driving while carrying the additional weight of pregnancy.However, a similar number will learn that conceiving and carrying a child is not possible due to infertility, high risks of pregnancy, or complications related to their physical limitations.

So, for many women who became disabled through accident or illness, or who were born with a physical disability, the unfulfilled lifelong dream of having a child becomes yet one more loss.  This should not be the case. This is a challenge that needs to be examined collectively by society, and overcome in order to give these women an equal opportunity to become the great mothers they are fully capable of being.

If you are unable to conceive due to a medical condition or disability, what are the options?  Some of the obstacles faced by women in search of an alternative to natural childbirth are:

  • The high expense of surrogacy

  • The legal issues surrounding surrogacy

  • The expense of fertility treatments

  • Not just the high cost, but the complexity of domestic adoptions due to laws that are different in every state.

  • Marital status, which can affect your ability to adopt. Many people with disability cannot get married due to the potential loss of insurance coverage.

Person Above Did Not Participate In Surrogacy 

  • International adoptions are often not permitted for people with disabilities due to negative discrimination.

Surrogacy: A high-end road less traveled

There are two main options for surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine explains traditional surrogacy as “a treatment in which a woman surrogate is inseminated with sperm for the purpose of conceiving for an intended recipient (parent(s).” [ii] The cost of this process, according to Circle Surrogacy, is at least $69,000.[iii]

Then, there is gestational surrogacy, explained by the ASRM as a process “in which embryos created by the intended parents’ own egg and sperm are then transferred into the surrogate’s uterus.” [iv] For a woman who is a US resident requiring the assistance of a gestational surrogate and an egg donor, Circle Surrogacy estimates the cost will be at least $88,400.[v]

If a sperm donor is needed for either of these processes, it can add an additional cost of anywhere from $200-$700 to purchase a unit of sperm.[vi]

If you happen to live in a state like Arizona, surrogacy is not an option, even if you have the money. In Arizona, Indiana, and Nebraska, surrogacy contracts are not enforceable. In New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington State, and Washington, D.C., surrogacy is completely illegal.[vii]

Infertility Treatments: A Bump in the Road

One infertility treatment can cost up to $12,400, according to The National Infertility Association, Resolve.[viii]

In Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, the National Council on Disability shares research from Dave Shade that notes: “Because disability has only a neutral or negative impact on fertility, people with disabilities who wish to have children are equally or more likely than the nondisabled population to experience infertility. Thus, it would be expected that at least fourteen percent of heterosexual couples trying to conceive, in which at least one partner has a disability, are infertile during any given year, and at least one sixth of such couples will experience infertility sometime during their relationship.” [ix]  Because of this, the cost is an unfair obstacle that creates an uneven playing field for those with disabilities who do not have the money to accommodate it. In many countries, such as France, this barrier is not an issue as fertility treatments are a covered expense. If one is unable to conceive, it is a medical condition and should be covered like any other medical issue by insurance, allowing the process of child birth to be equal for all.

But under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs is banned from covering in vitro fertilization, sperm or egg donation and surrogacy.

Senator Tammy Duckworth has started a campaign to gain public support to compel Congress to lift the ban on VA coverage for IVF.  Her Action can be supported here. This can help pressure insurance companies to follow suit.

Research by: Emily Ladau

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