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Neurodivergence and advocating for yourself in pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Lauren Goddard is an Integrative Counsellor, Neurodivergent and Trauma Coach. She specialises in empowering women around their mental health and advocating for themselves. In this post she brings together her personal experiences of navigating pregnancy and birth with ADHD and shares her top tips for anyone living through similar experiences.


In 2012, following two rounds of IVF I had a high-risk twin pregnancy which ended via a planned C-section. Having undiagnosed ADHD at the time made for an interesting experience. Then in 2021 during the height of lockdown I had my third child also by planned C-section. This time around, still officially undiagnosed but with a better understanding of myself and my needs I was ready to speak my truth and ask for the help I needed.


Some of the areas that I found I needed additional support with included, physically adapting to being pregnant, from an interoception and sensory perspective, trusting the medical professionals, communication and planning.  Please note that this is based on my own experience - this is a non-exhaustive list and will not be the same for every neurodivergent woman. I am also very aware that these areas can also be difficult for neurotypical women to speak out about.  My hope with this article is that all women feel heard and can speak out to have their needs met.





As my sense of interoception changed and I was able to feel the babies inside my body, my sensory process had to adapt. Feeling the movements and niggles that came with pregnancy was difficult to start with. At the time I didn’t know that I may be processing this differently to other people and I couldn’t understand why some of the feelings I was experiencing were not understood by the midwives attending me. I realise now that I was hyper-sensitive to certain sensory changes on the inside of my body. 


Trusting the medical professionals

After being misdiagnosed with anxiety and depression, and years of feeling ‘fobbed off’ when I was experiencing overwhelm and chronic pain because of neurodivergent burnout, trusting the professionals was a really difficult thing to do.  I went with the flow the first time around, to my own detriment.  The second time, without my partner present (due to COVID rules) at the appointments and on the ward, I had to speak up and trust that I would be advised correctly, and push to get the help I needed when things didn’t feel right.


Communicating and interacting with medical professionals

Trying to process the medical terminology and language was difficult. Appointments were brief, and the information came thick and fast - at times I was required to make big decisions on the spot.  But, during my second pregnancy I made a point of asking for things to be repeated so I could make notes on my phone. I also asked for things to be spelled out and explained in more general terms so that I could research what they were after the appointment; I felt more empowered and knew what I needed.


Planning and organising

The amount of planning, appointments and organising that comes with IVF, pregnancy, birth and beyond was immense.  I had to find a way to get my disorganised thoughts in order - a way to stick to schedules and routines when the babies were born, remembering which boob I had last fed on and whose nappy had been changed was a minefield.  Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to organise myself, but I did and you will too.





Based on my personal experiences and professional insights I thought I would share my top tips for navigating pregnancy, birth and beyond as a neurodivergent person:


·       Talk openly with the staff at all stages about being neurodivergent and the specific adaptations you need.


·       Record medical appointments using your phone or make notes during the appointment.


·       Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.


·    Sensory needs and changes to your body may take some time to adjust to and it's ok to verbalise this to medical staff.


·       Prepare yourself for possible changes in routine and expectations.


·       Where possible have a plan B, understand that what you may be expecting may need to be adapted.


·       Visit the settings and meet the staff that you are likely to be engaging with.


·       Speak to your midwife and health visitor about your needs and where you may need additional, tailored support.


This is your pregnancy and you are entitled to experience it the way you choose to. Advocating for yourself is the best way to ensure you have the birth experience you'd like as well as the pre and postnatal support you need.


Lauren specialises in supporting women around their mental health and advocating for themselves. She is based in Colchester, Essex and works both face-to-face and online.


If you're interested in finding out more, you can connect with Lauren on Instagram, Facebook or get in touch with her at flyfreecounselling@outlook.com.

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