By Mari Greenfield

Abstract: The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic concerns all people, but has a specific extra effect on those who are expecting a baby during this time. The advice in the UK changed rapidly, with 14 different sets of national guidance issued within one month. Individual NHS Trusts released different guidance relating to the withdrawal of homebirth services, the closure of birth centres, restrictions on the number of birth partners (if any) allowed during labour, and whether any visitors were allowed to visit after birth. With the landscape of maternity care changing so rapidly, research was carried out to provide real time data capture of the lived experiences of expectant families. An online qualitative survey was carried out over two weeks 10-24 April 2020. The survey was open to; those in the third trimester of pregnancy, those who had given birth since the beginning of the ‘lockdown’ period in the UK, and their partners. The survey asked questions about how respondents holistic antenatal experiences had been affected, whether their plans for birth had changed, and how they felt about these changes. 

It also collected demographic data, including sexual orientation and gender. Data about sexual orientation and the gender of expectant parents is not routinely in maternity statistics in the UK. However, UK perinatal services have been shown to be cis-hetero-normative, and the literature shows that pandemics reinforce inequities within societies. This research therefore offered a unique experience to capture the experiences of lesbian/gay, bisexual, pansexual, non-binary and trans men who were/whose partners were due to give birth during the period from 9th March to 3rd July 2020. The presentation describes both the experiences of asking about whether expectant parents are LGBTQ+, and then describes the experiences of LGBTQ+ expectant parents during the early days of lockdown. The presentation situates these experiences both within the wider context of all survey respondents, and the wider literature on LGBTQ+ birth.

Keywords: birth, maternity, LGBTQ+, perinatal, freebirth, homophobia, transphobia 

Dr Mari Greenfield holds an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship at King’s College, London. Her primary research interests are in traumatic birth, and perinatal choice and control. Her work includes looking at Queer families’ perinatal experiences, and how homophobia and/or transphobia may impact those experiences. Her publications include: Greenfield, M., (2019) ‘Choices after traumatic birth’ in Jefford, E., Midwifery decision making Routledge, London; Darwin, Z. and Greenfield, M., (2019) ‘Mothers and others: The invisibility of LGBTQ people in reproductive and infant psychology’ Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 37, 4, 341-343; Greenfield, M. and Darwin, Z. (2020) Trans pregnancy, traumatic birth and perinatal mental health [conference presentation] Trans Pregnancy conference, 14-16 January, Leeds; Greenfield, M. and Darwin, Z. (2020) ‘Transpregnancy, traumatic birth and perinatal mental health: A scoping review’, Journal of Transgender