BackgroundAutism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental difference and disability, yet there is limited research examining parenting in autistic mothers.
ObjectiveTo explore autistic mothers' experience of the perinatal period and parenthood. This includes pregnancy, childbirth, the postpartum period, self-perception of parenting strengths and weaknesses, communication with professionals in relation to one's child, mental health difficulties and the social experience of motherhood. It also includes disclosing one's diagnosis of autism in parenting contexts.
MethodsWe used a community-based participatory research model, and recruited an advisory panel, with whom we co-developed an anonymous, online survey for autistic mothers. The online survey was completed by autistic and non-autistic mothers, and we compared their responses using Chi-squared analysis.
SampleAutistic mothers (n = 355), and non-autistic mothers (n = 132), each of whom had at least one autistic child, were included in our final analysis.
ResultsThere were differences in education, gender identity and age of mother at birth of first child. Autistic mothers were more likely to have experienced additional psychiatric conditions, including pre- or post-partum depression, and reported greater difficulties in areas such as multi-tasking, coping with domestic responsibilities and creating social opportunities for their child. They were also more likely to report feeling misunderstood by professionals, and reported greater anxiety, higher rates of selective mutism, and not knowing which details were appropriate to share with professionals. They were also more likely to find motherhood an isolating experience, to worry about others judging their parenting, or feel unable to turn to others for support in parenting. However, despite these challenges, autistic mothers were able to act in the best interest of their child, putting their child's needs first.
ConclusionsAutistic mothers face unique challenges and the stigma associated with autism may further exacerbate communication difficulties. Greater understanding and acceptance amongst individuals who interact with autistic mothers is needed, and autistic mothers would benefit from additional and better-tailored support.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC6945630 | BioStudies |