Planning and having a baby
By PANDA (PERINATAL ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION AUSTRALIA)
Planning and having a baby is a time of adjustment and change. LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer) families are like any other when it comes to starting a family, some- times the community, family, and friends, may not understand the journey undertaken in bringing a baby into the world. While there is an expectation of joy, sometimes these feelings can be overridden with stress, difficulties in adjusting to a new way of life, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. Perinatal (during pregnancy and the year after birth) anxiety & depression can be confusing and distressing, and for families who are suffering it is often hard to speak about. It’s important to know that help is available and seeking support early leads to a faster recovery.
PANDA recognises that whilst perinatal anxiety and depression can affect families from all cultures and socioeconomic classes, there may be some significant added risk factors for parents who identify as LGBTIQ. In fact, there is research to suggest that LGBTIQ parents may
experience higher levels of perinatal anxiety and depression than other population groups.
Society: Discrimination and Isolation
Many people may assume that because you have a baby, you are in a heterosexual relationship. In reality, 22% of lesbian couples and 3% of gay male couples have a child or children living at home with them. It may be hard to find the professional, non-judgemental help that you need. Sometimes LGBTIQ parents face discrimination or have their roles, methods of conception, or abilities to parent questioned. As well as this, some LGBTIQ families or intending parents struggle to find friendship groups that support their parenting role.
Worry about social stigma can also impact LGBTIQ families. Many members of the LGBTIQ community grew up with bullying, harassment, or discrimination. Some people may believe that children of LGBTIQ parents are disadvantaged when actually the research is clear that this is not the case. Family Parenting issues can be compounded by the fact that some members of the LGBTIQ community may have experienced difficult relationships with their families of origin. Often when people have their own children they rely on, or desire, the support of their family. New parents also often think about how they would parent differently, and this may bring up unresolved past issues concerning their own families of origin.
Previous History of Mental Health Issues
A previous history of mental illness is a risk factor for developing perinatal anxiety and depression. A lack of positive coping and support strategies may become problematic during pregnancy or early parenthood, especially if previous mental health issues have been untreated. Conception Complications Difficulties and the stress of IVF, surrogacy, donors, or co-parenting
arrangements can contribute to parents developing perinatal anxiety or depression.
Non-biological parents can experience perinatal anxiety and depression as well. In heterosexual
relationships around 1 in 10 men experience anxiety or depression following the birth of their baby. It is frequently harder for the non-biological parent to access support services and help, and they may feel invisible or neglected in the process of having and caring for a family. Worries about extra responsibilities, role changes, financial burdens, and changes in sexual relationships may also impact the non-biological parent. LGBTIQ non-biological parents may experience insensitive questioning or assumptions from the family of origin, friends, or service providers
(or not have their role as a parent validated) and they may experience high levels of anxiety about their future parental role in families where separation occurs. Non-biological parents
may also be unsure of how to assist their partner if they are suffering from perinatal anxiety and depression.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of perinatal anxiety or depression for two weeks or more, it's important to seek help.
• Contact PANDA for support, information, referrals, and telephone counseling.
• Let your GP or other trusted health professional know what you’re experiencing. (PANDA may be able to provide referrals to an LGBTIQ friendly GP)
• Look for local playgroups or parenting groups for LGBTIQ families. These websites may be helpful:
Remember, you are not alone. There is help available and with the appropriate treatment and support, you can begin to feel better and enjoy your new family member. Sometimes, accepting LGBTIQ families and embracing their uniqueness works as ef- effectively as medication or counseling.
“A lesbian mother shared her story, where she was questioned frequently about being a parent. Her experience did not go well in the heterosexual motherhood group as the group could not relate with the client. Later, she got better after visiting LGBTIQ friendly clinic and had a wonderful time with the counselor and support group. She claims that she felt better not just because of the support she received, but also because the practitioner accepted her family and understood the unique difficulties she faced.”