Having a baby as a queer parent was already hard enough. Thanks to the pandemic, now it’s ‘crippling’
It has become even more challenging for queer women and non-binary folk to have children and grow their families during the pandemic.
LGBT+ women and non-binary people already face huge challenges when having children, from the exorbitant prices of fertility treatment not covered by the NHS, to discrimination and micro-aggressions from service providers.
The 2021 DIVA survey, from DIVA magazine, Kantar and Stonewall, released during Lesbian Visibility Week revealed that more than a third (36 per cent) of queer women and non-binary folk with children faced significant barriers in growing their families.
The most common challenge (19 per cent) was the huge cost of private fertility treatment.
Current NICE guidance states that couples who were both assigned female at birth must have tried to conceive at least six times using self-funded artificial insemination before qualifying for NHS-funded fertility treatment. Both IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilisation) can cost thousands of pounds per cycle.
Seven per cent said they faced discrimination in reproductive or adoption services.
Of the respondents with children, 72 per cent conceived through non-medical means, 11 per cent used IVF, eight per cent used IUI in a clinic, seven per cent adopted, two per cent fostered and one per cent used a surrogate.
When researchers looked only at those who conceived via IVF or IUI, the proportion who faced barriers and challenges jumped to 85 per cent.
Having children during the pandemic has been ‘horrific’ for some
During the coronavirus pandemic, however, queer women and non-binary folk who want to have children are facing even greater barriers.
Laura-Rose is a lesbian mother who founded the LGBT Mummies Tribe, an organisation that provides support and community to queer parents, and campaigns to break down barriers for LGBT+ women and people in their journey to parenthood by working with the government and the NHS.
She and her wife have each carried a child, and Laura-Rose is currently pregnant with their third.
Laura-Rose told PinkNews that for the LGBT+ families they support, the pandemic has “really been detrimental for their mental health”.
She said: “We’ve experienced it twice, we’ve been really lucky to have two children already and both be biological and non-biological parents.
“But there are a lot of people out there who are in my position, who are pregnant, who have had failed cycles, secondary infertility, miscarriages, losses, who are going through it for the very first time.”
It’s has been especially difficult, she said, for non-biological parents.
“They’re not going to the scans… when it’s going to be their first and last baby, and they will never carry again, or their partner will never get that experience. They can’t afford it, it’s too crippling.
“For those people it’s had a really detrimental effect mentally.
“We have people reaching out saying: ‘I’m really struggling, I’m the non-bio mother or parent. I don’t get addressed, I feel like I’m a third wheel, I’m not part of the journey. I’m really struggling, I’m really depressed, I feel really detached.'”
Some non-biological parents they support, she said, have had to be “crying outside the hospital” when something goes wrong, or have “gone through multiple miscarriages and losses, and in the pandemic have had to sit in the car, and wait for that call from their partner to say whether they’ve lost the next baby”.
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All of the barriers imposed by the pandemic, on top of those that already exist for queer parents and the fact that LGBT+ people are more likely to suffer from mental health difficulties, have made for a “horrific” situation.
Laura-Rose continued: “You’ve got barriers of going to the GP [who’s] saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got no access to NHS funding’, then you’ve had to scrimp and save to have treatment, then you’re having to get pregnant, then you might miss miscarry, then you’re going to appointments and the non-bio parent hasn’t been addressed.
“Or the person carrying is non-binary, and they’re not using the right pronouns, or they haven’t bothered to. All of these micro-aggressions and barriers, to get to the point of birth, can be a really difficult experience.
“Chuck in the pandemic and mental health issues, it’s been a really, really tough time for a lot of people.”
LGBT+ Mummies Tribe runs support groups for all kinds of parents, including groups for non-binary parents, trans parents, non-biological parents and families who have experienced pregnancy loss.
The organisation also runs a yearly UK meet-up, where queer families can connect and build community.