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Keywords:

  • donor conception;
  • experiences;
  • lesbian co-mothers/non-biological lesbian mothers;
  • maternity health care;
  • midwives;
  • nurses;
  • sperm donation

Abstract

Aim

This article is a report of a study of lesbian co-mothers' experiences of UK maternity healthcare services.

Background

With the increase in fertility provision to lesbian couples, maternity healthcare services are increasingly coming into contact with lesbian co-mothers. Literature highlights the need to investigate donor-conceived lesbian families and an absence of research focusing on the unique experiences of co-mothers in the maternity process.

Design

The study followed a qualitative design and interpretative phenome-nological analysis methodology.

Methods

A qualitative study was carried out involving ten lesbian co-mothers, whose children were conceived via anonymous donor insemination to their partners. Data collection took place between May–September 2009.

Findings

Interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed two main types of co-mothers' experiences, those connected with maternity service structures and interpersonal experiences with maternity care staff. Co-mothers felt excluded by heterocentric organizational service structures. However, the co-mothers' overwhelming experiences with staff were positive and inclusive. Despite this, co-mothers reported that any ambiguous or non-inclusive experiences with professionals left them questioning whether these experiences were due to homophobic attitudes or professional incompetence.

Conclusion

The results indicate that these lesbian co-mothers felt predominantly included and accepted by maternity services. Ambiguous interpersonal experiences, however, evoked doubts in this regard. In addition, organizational heterocentric structural barriers remain. Structural service delivery changes could facilitate co-mothers' feelings of inclusion and highlight the important role practitioners have in contributing to co-mothers' experiences.