Research team to study pregnancy in women with disabilities with new NIH grant

A major grant from the National Institutes of Health has paved the way for professors from throughout the northeast, including Suzanne Smeltzer, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor and director of the College's Center for Nursing Research, to study the needs of women with disabilities around the time of pregnancy.

The NIH recently awarded $1.12 million for the study, titled “Health Needs and Barriers to Perinatal Care for Women with Mobility Disabilities.” Dr. Smeltzer will be working alongside the study’s principal investigator, Monika Mitra, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine, as well as other co-investigators, Linda Long-Bellil, JD, PhD, assistant professor at the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, and Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Aiming to fill a gap in the literature about women with disabilities’ experiences before, during and after pregnancy - which is currently dominated by retrospective single-site studies with small samples that do not compare women with disabilities to women without disabilities - the authors plan to use their findings to develop perinatal care recommendations to improve care for women with disabilities that limit mobility.

The study’s specific goals include examining access to perinatal care and exploring differences in pregnancy-related outcomes for women with and without disabilities, examining unmet needs and barriers to perinatal care for women with mobility disabilities and comparing the needs to those of other women, and developing and disseminating recommendations for perinatal care for women with such disabilities.

An internationally renowned scholar, researcher, and educator, Dr. Smeltzer has conducted extensive research on individuals with multiple sclerosis and other disabilities, strategies to improve the health of those who have a disability and approaches to integration of information about people with disabilities into health care professionals’ education and training.