LGBTQ + new and expectant parents' experiences of perinatal services during the UK's first COVID‐19 lockdown

Greenfield, Mari and Darwin, Zoe (2023). LGBTQ + new and expectant parents' experiences of perinatal services during the UK's first COVID‐19 lockdown. Birth (early access).



Background: COVID‐19 created specific challenges for new and expectant parents and perinatal services. Services changed rapidly in the United Kingdom (UK), including the withdrawal of home birth services, birth center closures, and restrictions on the number of birth partners allowed in the birth room. The purpose of this study was to examine how these changes affected the experiences of LGBTQ+ parents in the UK.
Methods: An online survey was conducted in April 2020 to provide real‐time data capture of new and expectant families' experiences. It was open to those in the third trimester, or to those who had given birth since the beginning of the first UK lockdown period, and their partners. The survey asked open‐ended questions about perinatal experiences. Demographic data were also collected, including sexual orientation and gender. Responses were collected from 1754 participants, including 76 who self‐identified as LGBTQ+.
Results: Thematic analysis identified that LGBTQ+ new and expectant parents faced similar issues to cisgendered, heterosexual expectant parents, though additional concerns were also noted relating to support and recognition. Heterocentric policies negatively affect lesbian families. Non‐birthing co‐mothers feared invalidation as parents. Sexual minority pregnant women were more likely than heterosexual pregnant women to consider additional birth supporters and to consider freebirthing.
Discussion: Service changes introduced in the pandemic were cisheteronormative, creating additional challenges for LGBTQ+ new and expectant parents and compounding existing inequalities. When planning, changing, or evaluating perinatal services, specific consideration is needed to include birthing parents who are not mothers and mothers who did not give birth. If appropriate care is not available, consequences may include impaired perinatal wellbeing and restricted birth choices. Including sexual orientation and gender in data collection enables different perspectives to be considered.

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