ADHD Aware. Neurodevelopmental conditions. 2024. https// (accessed 21 March 2024)

National Autistic Society. Autistic women and girls. 2024. https// (accessed 21 March 2024)

O'Nions E, Petersen I, Buckman JEJ Autism in England: assessing underdiagnosis in a population-based cohort study of prospectively collected primary care data. Lancet Regional Health - Europe. 2023; 29

Royal College of Midwives. Supporting diagnosed and undiagnosed neurodivergent women and birthing people. 2024. https// (accessed 21 March 2024)

Russell G, Stapley S, Newlove-Delgado T Time trends in autism diagnosis over 20 years: a UK population-based cohort study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2021; 63:(6)674-682

Stuart V, Kitson-Reynolds E Autistic women's experiences of the antenatal intrapartum and early postnatal periods. Br J Midwifery. 2024; 32:(4)180-188

The impact of rising neurodiversity awareness

02 April 2024
Volume 32 · Issue 4

In recent years, there has been greater recognition of neurodivergent conditions, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, with up to 15% of the UK population thought to be neurodiverse (ADHD Aware, 2024). The increase in diagnoses, particularly in children, is largely thought to be the result of better awareness and improved understanding of neurodiverse conditions (Russell et al, 2021). Research also suggests that there are a greater number of undiagnosed adults in the UK than previously thought (O'Nions et al, 2023).

Among women, it is now known that neurodiverse conditions, such as autism, can present differently than in men (National Autistic Society, 2024). The higher rates of diagnosis in men and boys are largely attributed to outdated stereotypes of ‘what autism looks like’ and a lack of understanding of the range of ways in which autistic traits can present (National Autism Society, 2024). Increased recognition of these inequalities means that previously missed cases of ADHD, autism and other conditions are now being recognised and discussed.

As highlighted by this issue's literature review of autistic women's experiences (Stuart and Kitson-Reynolds, 2024), pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period are likely to present neurodiverse women with unique challenges. These include difficulties related to sensory issues, interactions with peers and healthcare professionals, For midwives and those working in maternity services, awareness of neurodiversity and its likely impact is therefore key to providing individualised, compassionate care.

Stuart and Kitson-Reynolds' (2024) review highlights the benefits of continuity of carer for autistic women, and the positive experiences of women who felt heard and respected when communicating their needs. The Royal College of Midwives' (2024) student midwife forum produced a webinar dedicated to supporting neurodivergent women and birthing people, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed. It emphasises the need for awareness in order to provide tailored support to women throughout their pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

With the rising awareness of neurodiversity, the best starting point is likely to be education and training. Hopefully, this will empower the midwifery workforce with the knowledge to provide high-quality, individualised care.