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LGBTQ+ parent families and perinatal mental health

29th June 2021

As Pride Month comes to an end, trainer Lucy Warwick-Guasp discusses how perinatal mental health services can be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ parent families. Using her lived experiences of having postnatal depression as a same-sex parent, as well as her experience as a teacher and working with Stonewall, Lucy offers training sessions for perinatal teams to ensure their service is fully accessible to LGBTQ+ parent families.

Lucy Warwick-Guasp

Twenty five years ago, I attended my first LGBT+ Pride event.  It was the summer of 1996 and I was a university student who had recently come out. I felt like I could at last be myself. Being part of the Pride parade through central London, whilst spectators stood on balconies and hung out of windows cheering and clapping, was exhilarating and affirming. For that day, London was celebrating my existence and I felt like I belonged.

This feeling of belonging isn’t always the case for LGBT+ people. Stonewall’s ‘School Report’ (2017) states that nearly half of LGBT+ pupils are bullied for being LGBT+ in Britain’s schools. The fear of discrimination, prejudice and barriers to accessing services becomes part of an LGBTQ+ person’s life. Research from 2018 showed over half of LGBT+ people had experienced depression in the past year. Research has also shown that increased ill-health among LGBT+ people is caused by minority stress from stigmatisation, marginalisation and discrimination.

Eighteen years after my first London Pride parade, my wife and I became mothers. Meticulous planning, saving and trips to Copenhagen for intrauterine insemination (IUI) resulted in a much-wanted baby. Unfortunately, after a traumatic birth, I went on to experience postnatal depression and had in-patient treatment at a Mother and Baby Unit. Along with the stress, anxiety and uncertainty of managing postnatal depression, my wife and I also had to take into consideration whether or not we would be discriminated against within the service or by other service users. As my wife tried to find out about the help available, she was left wondering if services included LGBTQ+ parents.  The use of heteronormative and cisnormative language such as ‘mums and dads’, ‘pregnant women’ and ‘fathers’ groups’, as well as not seeing our family reflected in leaflets and literature, left us wondering if the services and support were for us.

I received fantastic care from the Mother and Baby Unit and felt very well looked-after there. After my recovery, I started to work with perinatal mental health teams to help make services inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. As a teacher and former Stonewall trainer, I had the experience to be able to offer a rounded service. I now offer a variety of training services (online and in-person) to all working in perinatal mental health. The feedback from practitioners has been very positive with one clinical psychologist saying: “This workshop is invaluable in helping services consider how they may inadvertently exclude LGBTQ+ families, and offers ideas of how services can do better to be inclusive to all.”

So as Pride Month comes to an end, we have to mindful that LGBTQ+ inclusion doesn’t just last one month but needs to be imbedded within the service that we offer, ensuring equality and equity of treatment for all types of families.

For information about how your perinatal mental health service can be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ parent families, feel free to contact me on [email protected] or look me up @Lucy_W_Guasp

Lucy Warwick-Guasp

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