Mental Health In LGBTQ Families
PADA, the experts in perinatal mental health, explain how PND and mental health issues can affect LGBTQ families
Reading Time: 3.5 minutes
Sometimes being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer parent can feel like a pretty invisible position. It’s easy for people to make the assumption that because you have a baby, you are in a heterosexual relationship. The transition to becoming a parent is also rife with different kinds of issues, which may present more challenges along the way.
Conversely, becoming a LGBTQ parent may be a great opportunity to become more comfortable with your own identity, to connect more with your family of origin and to get lots of positive feedback from other people about what a great parent you’ll be.
There is not a lot of research out there, but what research has been done suggests that lesbian mothers may experience slightly higher rates of symptoms of post-natal depression. Importantly, this research also suggests that there might be different kinds of reasons involved.
Risk factors for post-natal depression
- Stressful experiences with conception, such as using IVF, dealing with donor issues, negotiating parenting with lots more people involved.
- Legal and societal discrimination making it harder to secure parenting rights.
- Previous depression is a risk factor for post-natal depression. Research fairly consistently shows LGBTQ people are around 2.4 times more likely to experience mental illness than heterosexuals. So more of us are at risk for post-natal depression to start with.
- Social support structures often change from being focussed on friends to focussed on families of origin when you become a parent. Some LQBTQ people have experienced difficult relationships with their families, potentially making this transition more complex.
- Worry about social stigma and your child potentially being discriminated against.
- If you are not the biological or birth parent, you may feel hidden and neglected in the process of having a baby. Just like Dads can get post-natal depression, there’s every reason to believe that LGBTQ non-biological parents can too.
Hey, think of the advantages
There are some advantages to being a LGBTQ parent, which might be protective when it comes to mental illness:
- The child is often much-wanted and carefully thought about.
- You’re more likely to have talked about how you want to parent, and what your expectations are.
- Many people will be more excited for you because you’re doing ground-breaking new things.
- Research suggests that although you might be worried about your children being discriminated against, very few LGBTQ parents actually report instances of this. In fact, most report being surprised by how positive others are toward them.
Advice from other LGBTQ families
- Being out to your midwife and doctors. Try it! They’ll be more open than you think. If they aren’t, then it’s quite okay to change and find someone who is more comfortable with you.
- Find support where ever you can. There are often groups of LGBTQ parents in the larger cities. Even if you can’t make it to meetings, you might be able to get in touch with other LGBTQ parents to talk things through.
- Use your information and contacts to find health professionals who suit you. For example, do you know anyone connected with the health field or other LGBTQ parents who could recommend a midwife?
- Belonging to a social network for LGBTQ families. Try this site.
- Talking explicitly about how to manage role-confusion when you have two Mums or Dads.
- Deciding in advance what you’re willing to tell people about how you created your family.
Ask for help. Please
Most importantly, remember it’s okay to ask for help! Good places to do this include: your GP, your midwife, your local mental health services, a counsellor… And you have a right to receive treatment that is respectful of your sexual and gender orientation.
The information and advice found on this website is shared as an excerpt with permission from PADA and the original article can be found here. PADA aims to reflect current medical knowledge and practice, however, this is not a substitute for clinical judgment and individual medical advice. The website authors accept no responsibility for any consequences arising from relying upon the information provided.
PADA take the accuracy of the information they publish on their website very seriously and update it regularly. Please let them know if you think the information is out of date.