Role of Doulas for LGBTQ+ Individuals and Couples 

Published June 28, 2024 under Blog

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As we know, doulas play an essential role in ensuring women and birthing people maintain agency over their body during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. For LGBTQ+ birthing people, this is especially important.

Reproductive Justice and Bodily Autonomy 

The framework of reproductive justice states that every person should have the right to have a child, the right to not have a child, and the right to raise their child in a safe and healthy environment. At its core, reproductive justice promotes bodily autonomy and everyone’s individual right to decide whether to have children.

As we know, doulas play an essential role in ensuring women and birthing people maintain agency over their body during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. For LGBTQ+ birthing people, this is especially important, as hospital practices typically follow a heteronormative and cisnormative framework that can lead to the mistreatment of couples, families, and individuals who do not fit into these molds. 

In a 2022 poll, 51% of LGBTQ + people reported that their care during pregnancy and labor was impacted by bias and/or discrimination. Bias and discrimination may manifest in different ways, including judgmental comments about a couple’s ability to raise a child, failing to take seriously physical symptoms of a transgender person or adequately evaluate said symptoms, and purposefully misgendering a patient. Transgender people face substantial discrimination in hospital settings, especially within the context of pregnancy and childbirth which are broadly understood to only be experiences of cisgender women. Additionally, LGBTQ+ couples often utilize assisted reproductive technologies like IVF, sperm and/or egg donors, and surrogacy to bring their child into the world. In cases where one parent has donated an egg or sperm, and the other has been obtained through a donor, clinicians may exhibit bias against the parent who is not biologically related to the child and fail to treat them as a legitimate parent. 

The Role of Doulas 

Every person deserves to experience pregnancy and childbirth safely and with respect from the doctors and clinicians who provide care. We know that doulas serve as a method of harm reduction for populations that routinely experience discrimination in medical settings. Doulas have been proven to help prevent mistreatment of birthing people by hospital clinicians and help clients maintain their bodily autonomy. Doulas can help ensure that LGBTQ+ women and birthing people are respected in the labor and delivery room. Similar to the benefits of community-based doula practices for Black, Brown, and Indigenous women, it can be especially helpful for LGBTQ+ birthing people to have doulas who also identify as LGBTQ+ to foster a strong connection of trust and help patients feel seen and understood by their care team. It is also imperative to develop and promote education for providers on how to work with queer patients in a judgment free way that centers the use of inclusive language and identify affirming care. 

Sources:

https://www.aamchealthjustice.org/news/polling/lgbtq-birth

https://www.them.us/story/lgbtq-doulas

This blog was authored by Kanan Brent, HealthConnect One’s Leadership Coordinator and Board Liaison. 

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