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Small Study: Pregnant Women With Asperger Syndrome Need Special Care

Pregnant mom holding her belly

Nurses and clinicians can help alleviate some difficulties experienced by pregnant women with Asperger syndrome by understanding more about the disorder, according to a recent small study. Four researchers studied the experiences of eight women with Asperger syndrome during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as their early experiences as new mothers, according to a news release. Their findings were published in the February/March 2016 issue of Nursing for Women' Health, the clinical practice journal of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. In their study, researchers found that most of the women had difficulty processing sensations related to pregnancy and also experienced increased sensitivity to touch, light, sounds and interaction, according to the release. After birth, the women found it challenging to understand their infants' behaviors and needs and to connect emotionally with them. Asperger syndrome is a neurobiological disorder on the higher-functioning end of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Asperger Autism Spectrum Education Network. An indvidual's symptoms can range from mild to severe, according to AASEN. People with Asperger syndrome, a lifelong condition, experience social, emotional, communication and interactional challenges, which can affect their behavior, language and problem-solving skills. In the last two decades, an increasing number of young women have been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome due to heightened awareness about the condition and advances in diagnosis, according to the news release. They researchers concluded that nurses and other clinicians should become more educated about Asperger syndrome and how it affects women during and after their pregnancy. Some examples include minimizing noise and shading fluorescent lighting as well as asking women if certain sensations bother them during examinations and offering adjustments, according to the release. In addition, clinicians should know that psychiatric conditions such as hyperactivity disorder, depression and anxiety have been reported in up to 70% of people with Asperger syndrome, according to the release. "Small improvements in the provision of healthcare, based on awareness of the perceptions of women with Asperger syndrome, can make a difference in the overall childbearing experience," the authors wrote in the study. "More research with childbearing women on the autism spectrum is needed to develop a foundation for best practice of care." The researchers are Marcia Gardner, PhD, CPNP, RN, CPN, associate professor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.; Patricia D. Suplee, PhD, RNC-OB, associate professor at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J.: Joan Bloch, PhD, CRNP, associate professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia; and Karen Lecks, MSN, CRNP, a nurse practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania. To comment, email [email protected].