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April 30, 2004

Guide for deaf mothers-to-be

From: BBC News, UK - Apr 30, 2004

Geoff Adams-Spink BBC News Online disability affairs reporter

Maternity units should be more aware of the needs of deaf mothers-to-be, campaigners say.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) says many deaf people's first language is British Sign Language, rather than English, and they can find it difficult to understand pregnancy information.

It says doctors and midwives are also often unaware of the needs of pregnant deaf women.

The RNID, in conjunction with the National Childbirth Trust, has launched the first guide for pregnant deaf women who use sign language.

Both organisations hope that the book will also be useful to healthcare professionals by providing guidance on good practice and raising awareness of the anxiety that pregnant deaf women experience when unable to communicate.

Pregnancy and Birth - a Guide for Deaf Women was written by Sabina Iqbal, who is deaf herself.

It includes advice about planning a family, antenatal care, giving birth and coping with a new baby.

"We want to ensure that pregnancy and childbirth are the positive experiences they should be for all deaf mothers," said RNID's Chief Executive Dr John Low.

Traumatic delivery

When dance teacher, Golda Dahan, experienced severe pains during labour, doctors decided that an emergency caesarean was necessary.

But nobody was able to explain what was going on and she became extremely anxious.

"Eventually I insisted by writing that an interpreter should be provided," she said.

"Only a partially qualified interpreter was found but she did at least manage to explain why the caesarean was necessary."

When Golda was trying to care for her newborn son, David, she was ignored by nurses who did not realise that she was deaf.

She was woken angrily by one nurse who told her that David had been crying uncontrollably.

"She implied that I was a bad mother, but I couldn't even hear David crying."

Two years later she gave birth to a baby girl in a different hospital, but was disappointed to find that staff was similarly unaware of her deafness.

RNID is campaigning to improve healthcare for deaf people by:

• Making deaf awareness training mandatory for medical and nursing undergraduates
• Making sure that hospitals and GP surgeries have at least one member of staff who is trained in deaf awareness and communication skills
• Improving access to BSL interpreters by video link

Pregnancy and Birth - A Guide for Deaf Mothers by Sabina Iqbal ISBN 1-904296-03-3 is priced at £14.99.