Maternity, pregnancy and fertility

Maternity, pregnancy and fertility are areas in which LGB people will actively seek health care and are likely to be open about their sexual orientation.

There are several ways in which lesbians can get pregnant. They may source sperm themselves, from a known donor (sometimes a gay man who wishes to co-parent), and self inseminate. In this case the health care practitioner may not know that the woman has become pregnant as a consequence of self-insemination. Alternatively, a lesbian may go to a fertility clinic for anonymous sperm and In-Utero-Insemination (IUI). The woman will have to be referred to a clinic by her GP.

Legislation exists that prevents lesbian and gay people from seeking fertility treatment in order to have a child. It is generally acknowledged that the safest way for a lesbian to conceive is through IUI as apposed to via informal arrangements with a man. In order to receive IUI, a lesbian must secure a referral from her GP and then be accepted by a fertility clinic. A fertility clinic is bound by rules set down in the Human Fertility and Embryology Act (1990) (HFEA) which makes explicit that any fertility treatment must be administered whilst considering the welfare of the child. The welfare of the child clause makes explicit reference for a child’s need for a father. Some clinics accept a lesbian couple’s explanation and reassurances about male role models, but the insistence perpetuates the belief that a child can only be brought up with a man and a woman. (This is law is set to change in 2009. Click here for more information).

Gay men can also experience discrimination at this stage if they are a known donor in the process. Sometimes, health care practitioners decide that the arrangement is unsuitable, and refuses treatment to the couple.

Lesbians can experience discrimination during pregnancy and childbirth from midwives and other health care practitioners. For example, a non-biological birth mother may be excluded from discussions or decisions. Pregnancy provides an invaluable gateway into the health sector. Discrimination at this stage can perpetuate attitudes and assumptions about discrimination in the health sector and therefore discourages LGB people from seeking preventative health care or health care in general.

Evidence

  • Pregnancy General Formal Investigation, Wales: Research into Lesbians' Experiences of Pregnancy and Work A Parken (2004)
  • Towards a better understanding of the cultural roots of homophobia in order to provide a better midwifery service for lesbian client T Wilton (1999)
  • Lesbian couples and single women: discrimination and UK licensed fertility clinics K Saria (2000)
  • Challenging conceptions: planning a family by self insemination. L Saffron. (1998)
  • Lesbian Motherhood: an exploration of Canadian lesbian families. F Nelson. (1996)
  • Lesbian Motherhood in Europe.(1997)
  • Making babies, making families: what matters most in an age of reproductive technologies, surrogacy, adoption, and same-sex and unwed parents. M L Shanley (1997)
  • Negotiating lesbian parenthood. P A Stevens.
  • Perverting Motherhood? Sexuality and lesbian parent families. J Gabb
  • Women parenting together: motherhood and family life in same sex relationships. K Almack. (2002)

 


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