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Heteronormative communication with lesbian families in antenatal care, childbirth and postnatal care


G. Röndahl: e-mail:


Title. Heteronormative communication with lesbian families in antenatal care, childbirth and postnatal care.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of lesbian parents’ experience of antenatal care, childbirth and postnatal care.

Background.  In a strictly heteronormative-based care system, ‘parents’ naturally implies a man and a woman, and all communication and routines are based on heterosexual couples.

Method.  A qualitative interview study was carried out in 2008. Ten mothers, eight of whom were in a relationship with another woman, participated. The participants had experience from several care facilities from three different cities in central Sweden.

Findings.  Most participants had positive experiences but also complained that the focus was not always on the pregnancy and that no parenthood education had been offered. Heteronormativity was communicated by midwives and nursing staff throughout the process – from antenatal care to postnatal care, via forms, journals, verbal communication and orientation visits. This was experienced as embarrassing for the participant parents, and they also described encountering what they interpreted as embarrassment on the part of care providers. Participants called for increased knowledge about lesbian parenting, since they believed this would influence and facilitate communication, not least with midwives in antenatal care.

Conclusion.  Midwives educated in lesbian issues could ask questions and communicate in a more neutral way at the first meeting, and thereby make prospective parents feel less insecure. Special parenthood education groups for lesbians are recommended so that lesbian couple can meet others with similar experiences and so that the focus will be on prospective parenthood and not on their sexual orientation.