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The Effect of Language on Lesbian Nonbirth Mothers


  • Robin Brennan,

    Corresponding author
    • Correspondence

      Robin A. Brennan, DrPH,

      La Salle School of Nursing

      and Health Sciences, St.

      Benilde Tower, Office

      2234, La Salle University,

      1900 W. Olney Avenue,

      Philadelphia, PA 19141.

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  • Randall L. Sell

  • The authors report no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.



To explore how language affects the transition of social (nonbirth) mothers into motherhood.


Nonexperimental, qualitative design.


This study took place in large, urban city located on the East Coast. Interviews were conducted in a private location within the social mother's home or in a private room at a coffee shop.


Twenty women who became social mothers through donor insemination with their female partners within the previous 24 months.


In depth, semistructured interviews lasting from 45 minutes to 90 minutes.


The transition to motherhood for social mothers is influenced by the use of language at the individual (social mother), family (mommy, mama, or something else), community (heterosexism of health care providers), and societal (education equals validation) levels. At present, a common language for or understanding of nonbirth mothers and their motherhood roles does not exist. Health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and office personnel working in maternal and child health settings, can help social mothers transition into motherhood by validating and recognizing their maternal roles through the use of written and spoken language.


By understanding how language affects the transition of social mothers to motherhood and by addressing their needs, health care providers can deliver better support to social mothers and their families.