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Keywords:

  • co-mother;
  • lesbian;
  • lesbian motherhood;
  • maternity care;
  • midwifery;
  • phenomenological-hermeneutical

spidsberg b.d. & sørlie v. (2011) An expression of love –midwives’ experiences in the encounter with lesbian women and their partners. Journal of Advanced Nursing 68(4), 796–805.

Abstract

Aim.  This paper is a report of a descriptive study of midwives’ lived experiences of caring for lesbian women and their partners.

Background.  A growing body of qualitative studies describes lesbian women’s experiences of maternity care. Studies about midwives’ caring experiences in the encounter are needed to improve care for lesbian women and their partners.

Method.  A qualitative study, using a phenomenological-hermeneutical method influenced by Ricoeur was conducted. Eleven midwives were recruited by snowball method. Interviews were conducted in 2009 and participants were encouraged to share events in their midwifery practice encountering lesbian women.

Findings.  The midwives described the lesbian love-relationship as strong and caring, but including elements of difference which could make the couple vulnerable. It was important for midwives to acknowledge their own attitudes and culturally sensitive non-verbal communication; also to consider the co-mother’s needs and role as different compared with those of fathers. Although caring for lesbian couples was seen as unproblematic, midwives described experiences of ambivalence or anxiety in the encounter and they had noticed that some couples had had negative experiences with maternity care.

Conclusion.  Studies are required to map content, consequences and coping strategies regarding the ambivalent or uncertain caring situations and to assess a co-mother’s particular role and needs during pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period to provide tailored care for lesbian couples.