Pregnant lesbian women struggle to be treated like normal expectant mothers as, they say, the focus is often on their sexuality rather than the fact that they are expecting a baby, say researchers.
Swedish researchers from Linkopings University and Uppsala University Hospital have called for special training for midwives, more neutral healthcare routines and forms and special education groups for pregnant women who are lesbians and their partners.
AdvertisementThe study showed that pregnant women who are lesbians are not receiving the same care as other mothers-to-be.
The research underlines how important it is for midwives and healthcare professionals to be aware that not all parents are heterosexual and that it is vital to focus on the patient's needs not their sexuality.
"Ten lesbian women aged from 30 to 46 were interviewed" said lead author Dr Gerd Rondahl, a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University.
"All were open about their sexuality with healthcare staff, all had experience of antenatal care, childbirth or postnatal care in Sweden and eight of them were in a relationship with another woman at the time of the study.
"Our study showed that none of the women were offered any childbirth and parenting education and some assumed that this was because the midwife did not know how to handle two mothers rather than the mother and father unit normally seen in traditional parenting groups.
"Some reported positive experiences but others felt vulnerable and defenceless because of the way that healthcare staff reacted to them. However, the majority felt that healthcare staff focused more on their sexuality than their needs as pregnant women and prospective parents," Rondahl added.
The study also showed that some women chose clinics that they knew were experienced in dealing with pregnant women who are lesbians.
Most of the women reported that their first meeting with their midwife was positive. Even if midwives were surprised, they were kind and friendly towards the prospective parents.
But those with negative experience felt it was down to personality not sexuality. However, one mother was so upset at the initial reaction she received - perceived as disbelief and disgust - that she moved to another clinic.
All the women saw the forms the midwife had to fill in as a source of embarrassment for both parties. Some were offended by the standard forms and saw them as conservative and stereotyped.