Being a woman with a spinal cord injury brings its own set of challenges, from managing menstruation to accessing health screenings.
Estimates suggest that one in four people with spinal cord injuries are women. Many women tell us there’s not enough support available so we’re trying to change this by campaigning for better health and care provision.
Every woman in the UK is invited for a breast screening when they turn 50. But, if you have a spinal cord injury, you may not be able to have one if you can’t hold yourself upright.
If you can’t have a mammogram, it’s especially important to examine your breasts. Ask your partner, a female GP or someone you trust to help you do this.
Cervical smear tests
Having a routine smear test can be challenging with a spinal injury. Many GP surgeries don’t have wheelchair hoists to transfer you onto an examination table. Talk to your GP to find out whether they can carry out the screening in your home. Or contact your local spinal cord injury centre to discuss having a test there.
Around one in two women’s periods will temporarily stop when they have a spinal cord injury. This can last between three months and one year.
Managing periods with a spinal cord injury can be difficult when you can’t use your hands to insert a tampon or apply a sanitary towel. Some women choose to take medication to supress their periods, or have a coil fitted. Speak to one of our nurse specialists for advice.
You can still get pregnant and have a healthy child with a spinal cord injury. Having the right information and support will help you prepare for pregnancy. Think about how you will adapt your bowel and bladder routines and the increased risk of pressure ulcers as you gain weight.
Being a mum
You’ll need support when you have a baby. Think about whether you may need to get someone to live with you to help. Your local authority has a duty to consider what support you need to carry out your parenting responsibilities.
Talk to an occupational therapist about equipment to help you with being a mum. You could also contact the charity Remap that designs and adapts equipment for free.
Find out more about smear tests on the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website
Read about Clair’s experience of becoming a mum after a spinal cord injury on the Back Up website
If you’re concerned about a women’s health issue, book a call with one of our nurse specialists , or speak to one of our support workers