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Emotional and mental wellbeing for LGBTIQA+ parents

All expecting and new parents deserve inclusive, appropriate support for their wellbeing – including LGBTIQA+ parents.

2 mums cuddling

Expecting a baby or becoming a parent is a huge life change, full of excitement and challenges. Mental health distress including anxiety and depression is common and affect 1 in 5 birth parents and 1 in 10 non-birth parents.

With so much change happening, parenthood can feel be confusing. Sometimes it’s tricky to recognise if you need more support.

“It’s the hardest job in the world and it does take adjustment. Don’t feel ashamed or blame yourself for how you feel. Don’t try to do it alone. Seek out services, even just a call to a counsellor. ”

Perinatal mental health distress can occur any time - from planning to conception, and throughout the postnatal period.

Symptoms are diverse; they can be mild, moderate or severe, and can change quickly. The most common symptoms people experience are anxiety and depression.

Perinatal mental health concerns are common and treatable. They can happen to anyone. The sooner you can get the right support for yourself and your family, the more likely you are to experience a quick recovery.

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What puts you at risk?

“My partner returned to work and I was left at home on my own, trying to heal physically and having to look after this little baby - even though I had no idea what to do. It all came crashing down and I realised I was nowhere near being okay. I felt really flat and had this incredible sense of isolation. ”

Many of the risk factors can affect anyone. On the PANDA Helpline, callers often share experiences including fertility issues, losing a baby or pregnancy, a difficult pregnancy, a traumatic birth, feeding or settling difficulties, prior mental health issues or trauma, difficult or absent family relationships, financial stress, isolation or family violence.

As an LGBTIQA+ expecting or new parent, you may face added risks, such as the challenge of accessing inclusive care from fertility, surrogacy, antenatal or birth services.

“The hardest part for my partner has always been the use of the term ‘dads’ when referring to non-birth parents. She found it so ingrained in the medical system and it made her feel less relevant and less important. [It] prevented her from reaching out.”

LGBTIQA+ people often have to advocate for their needs to care providers who have limited knowledge about LGBTIQA+ parent families, or safe, appropriate care for trans, gender diverse and/or intersex clients. It’s exhausting, and it can stop people voicing their needs, or even accessing care.

“Having children means you are perpetually coming out: to childcare, to doctors, to school mums. It was uncomfortable always making decisions about whether to ‘come out’ or let it slide. Being a new mum is exhausting enough, add postnatal depression and sometimes claiming my identity felt too much. ”

‘Minority stress’ is a term for the mental health impacts of exclusion, discrimination, mistreatment and stigma. It can arise from direct personal experiences, and from broader social stigma.

Minority stress contributes to mental distress and stops people getting help. LGBTIQA+ people mayalso hesitate to access mainstream services during a crisis, due to fear of discrimination.

Mental health checklist

How are you going?

Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be reason to seek help.

Checklist for

Expecting Mums
Expecting Dads and Non-birth Parents
New Mums
New Dads and Non-birth Parents
Partners and Carers

Getting help if you need it

“My partner came out as trans when our baby was about five months old. It was such a relief, but it was a few big months. Exhaustion, isolation, and confusion started to take hold of me, and I had come to be aware of some unresolved trauma that was really kicking me around. I lay in bed feeling so, so sad – day, after day, after day. ”

It’s important to be aware of the risks and potential symptoms, and to seek help if you’re worried about yourself or a loved one.

There are many pathways to getting help. Good places to start include:

  • Your antenatal/birth care providers, such as a midwife or your obstetrician
  • Your child health nurse
  • Your doctor.

A doctor who has experience in mental health can play an essential role in diagnosis and treatment planning, including referral to specialist services for counselling.

You can also contact a specialist perinatal mental health service like PANDA. It’s important to find and advocate for care that feels safe, inclusive and supportive to you.

Finding safe, inclusive care

As much as possible, look for care providers who can provide inclusive care:

  • LGBTIQA+ health services and peer support services like QLife can help you find doctors and other health professionals who are LGBTIQA+ allies.
Visit QLife
  • Community-run LGBTIQA+ parent support and play groups can also be a great source of information and support.
  • Joining a support group or speaking to trusted and caring health professionals can help reduce the sense of isolation so many new parents feel.

In the perinatal period, people often need to access more health services than before parenthood. Many health services are working towards better LGBTIQA+ inclusion.

The experiences of LGBTIQA+ PANDA Helpline callers, show that you may need to educate some of your care providers about your family’s support needs.

How PANDA can help

PANDA has LGBTIQA+ staff and volunteers throughout our organisation, and our Helpline counsellors and peer support volunteers are committed to providing inclusive care to all callers from the LGBTIQA+ community. You can call the Helpline about yourself or someone you know. Our counsellors will listen and help you take the first steps towards recovery.

This may include helping you locate LGBTIQA+ specialist/inclusive services or supporting you to advocate for your needs in mainstream services. You may also like to check out our Mental Health Checklists, which you can use to explore potential symptoms affecting you or a loved one.

You can email yourself a copy of your checklist results and use your answers as a starting point when talking to health professionals and advocating for your support needs.

Useful downloads

Emotional and mental wellbeing for LGBTIQA+ expecting and new parents
Adjusting to parenthood

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Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be a reason to seek help.