Fear of childbirth is worse for LGBT people than straight cis people, study shows
LGBT+ people are more like to have a fear of childbirth compared with their straight, cis counterparts, a study has shown.
Fear of childbirth (FOC) can have a negative psychological impact during pregnancy and birth. It has also been associated with difficulties during birth and postpartum mental health problems.
The study was published the journal Midwifery from the Swedish university Linköping, and researchers interviewed 17 people who identify as either lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
While FOC has been well-researched in heterosexual, cisgender women, LGBT+ people and their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth have often been overlooked.
Linköping University researcher Anna Malmquist said: “This study shows that fear of childbirth is the same, regardless of sexuality.
“The difference is that in addition to this fear, lesbian and bisexual women and [transgender] people are afraid of being questioned or offended because of their identity. That is, their fear has an added dimension.”
When someone is treated as outside of the norm in a healthcare situation it is commonly known as “minority stress”, and it can seriously affect the health of LGBT+ people.
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According to the study, while going through pregnancy and childbirth LGBT+ people “must repeatedly explain their relationship or are forced to deal with comments, misunderstanding or incomprehension”.
Trust in healthcare staff is essential to reducing FOC, and when comments or assumptions from staff are the source of minority stress this becomes much more difficult to do.
Malmquist said the solution is better training for healthcare professionals on treating LGBT+ pregnant people, and an understanding of what minority stress is.
She added: “It’s not enough that healthcare staff feel they are ‘open-minded’ in their interaction with this group. They need knowledge.
“These patients are already having a lot of difficulty with their fear of childbirth. They shouldn’t have to train their midwife as well.”