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    Common Mental Health Concerns New LGBTQ+ Parents Face

    Updated 04 May 2022 |
    Published 17 December 2021
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Lorna Hobbs, DClinPsy, PhD, Principal clinical psychologist, Tavistock and Portman Clinic, UK
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    Discrimination and misgendering can leave new LGBTQ+ parents more vulnerable to mental health problems. Our guide will not only help you feel less alone, but also find the support you need

    Giving birth is one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding things we can do — and the days, weeks, and months that follow aren’t easy either. (Despite being – hopefully – full of plenty of magic, too).

    For LGBTQ+ individuals, however, the challenges often multiply. Postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety, and birth-related PTSD, can affect anyone who has just given birth. But while research on the topic is slim, studies indicate higher instances of PPD among lesbian and bi individuals, and greater overall rates of mental health conditions among the LGBTQ+ community, increasing their odds of experiencing postpartum mental health concerns. 

    Being LGBTQ+ doesn’t automatically make you more vulnerable to experiencing conditions like depression and anxiety. However, the Mental Health Foundation points out that if you experience discrimnation, isolation, or rejection because of your sexuality or gender identity, it may lead to poor mental health. 

    New parenthood can be a really exciting time, but it’s also incredibly tough, especially when you factor in sleepless nights. If you don’t feel supported by your medical professional or your biological or chosen family, you can end up feeling very alone. 

    That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most common mental health concerns new LGBTQ+ parents face, along with information on where to find support. 

    LGBT parenting: Dealing with homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia

    Despite the progress that has been made around rights, LGBTQ+ people continue to face homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in their everyday lives — and this can have very real negative effects on their mental health after having a baby.

    “I know for sure that people experience homophobia,” says Genavieve Jaffe, an entrepreneur and lawyer in Philadelphia. Jaffe is a mother who carried her partner’s embryo via reciprocal IVF (R-IVF). She says she knows some people will only refer to one parent as the “real” parent within same-sex couples. While she believes people’s questions about the genetics of her child aren’t always ill-intentioned, it doesn’t mean they aren’t hurtful. “[It] can be devastating,” Jaffe tells Flo.

    But the problems are deeper rooted than comments from friends and strangers. “I have heard of homophobia when it comes to certain fertility clinics, where a nurse will continue to ask where the ‘husband/father’ is when they know it’s two wives, or they will refuse R-IVF,” Jaffe explains.

    The fact is, discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community within clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals remains a major issue. Around 15 percent of LGBTQ+ Americans postpone or actively avoid seeking medical care for this reason alone, according to American Progress. One in three trans patients also said they had to educate their health professionals about trans matters just so they could receive proper care.

    The statistics don’t improve in the U.K. either. Stonewall found that 14 percent of LGBTQ+ people avoided getting medical help due to fear of discrimination. A fear that’s clearly founded — almost a quarter of those surveyed had personally witnessed discrimination by health care staff.

    And that’s not even getting into the reported rise in recent years in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes worldwide, from the U.S. to the U.K. and Germany, which can leave many struggling mentally and emotionally while they embark on their parenting journey. 

    LGBT parenting: Lack of visibility in pregnancy and parenting spaces

    From “mommy and me” classes to birthing and parenting workshops geared toward “moms and dads,” it can be emotionally difficult for many people in the LGBTQ+ community to not see themselves reflected in the conversation. And even when such spaces claim to be open to all, they frequently fall short. 

    “Often childbirth education classes are geared to heterosexual parents and may not be equipped to support transgender parents,” says Casey Tanner, MA, LCPC, and Certified Sex Therapist at The Expansive Group

    You only have to look at the most popular birthing and parenting resources to see this is in action. Many feature gendered language like “keep mother and baby together; it’s best for mother, baby, and breastfeeding,” while others use phrases like, ”for the mother-to-be and her birthing companion.” 

    This can leave LGBTQ+ parents-to-be feeling excluded and isolated, which in turn increases the risk of postpartum mental health disorders, especially during periods of isolation like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Freddy McConnell, a trans man who is currently pregnant with his second child, explained what needs to change in a recent article for Flo

    “All we are asking, now that awareness of diversity in birth is growing, is for inclusion,” he wrote. “It’s not about never saying ‘mother’ or ‘woman.’ No one would want that. It’s about saying ‘mothers and…’ or ‘women and….’ This is increasingly known in the birth world as the ‘additive’ approach.” 

    LGBT parenting: Needing gender-affirming care

    There is also a need for more doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, and other birthing professionals to offer respectful, gender-affirming care to trans and gender-diverse patients.

    “Hospitals can often be spaces where individuals are constantly being misgendered [using language that does not respect a person’s gender identity] and where their partners may not be recognized as the second parent,” says Tanner. According to one report by the Center for American Progress, 23 percent of transgender people reported being misgendered by a doctor or health care provider in 2018.

    Jay has recently had a baby. They know firsthand the impact misgendering can have. Though they had a very trans-inclusive OB-GYN, the attending gynecologist at their delivery was not. 

    “Even the providers who knew how I identified … defaulted to feminine and cis-heteronormative language, which definitely made me uncomfortable and made it harder to advocate for myself,” says Jay, who believes this played a role in the amount of unwanted interventions they had, including a non-emergency induction at 39 weeks