Welcoming a new member into a family is a wonderfully exciting time, although there are also many challenges that families face. There may be times when the joy and happiness is surpassed or complicated by factors such as sleep deprivation, the stress of adjusting to a new way of life, anxiety and depression, health complications, expectations imposed by others, or demands placed on self.
Perinatal (the period of time during pregnancy and the year following the birth) anxiety and depression can become a challenging time for families. While perinatal anxiety and depression can affect all families, research has suggested that there may be some added risk factors for parents who identify as LGBTIQ; higher levels of perinatal anxiety and depression have been found in LGBTIQ communities when compared to other population groups.
What are the risk factors for LGBTIQ families?
History of mental health issues
A previous history of mental health issues presents a risk factor for future mental health issues such as perinatal depression and anxiety. Further to this, a lack of coping strategies can also contribute to the ongoing development of mental health issues throughout pregnancy and early parenthood.
Feelings of isolation and social stigma
It may be assumed that just because you have a baby you are in heterosexual relationship. However, in reality approximately 20% of lesbian couples and 3% of gay male couples are raising children. There are times when LGBTIQ parents face discrimination, and their parenting roles and methods of conception are questioned. The process of conception, conception complications and ongoing parenting difficulties can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression. Particularly if a couple undergo the added stress of IVF, surrogacy, donors, or a co-parenting arrangement. Greater isolation may be met when the parents’ social network do not have children and adequate support isn’t found. Further to this, there may be concerns surrounding bullying and harassment for both the parent and throughout childhood and the adolescent years for children.
When becoming a new parent, it is common to reflect upon your own childhood and also turn to your parents and siblings for support and guidance. However, some people have experienced difficult relationships within their family of origin and thus may experience some isolation or also it is a time to reflect upon their childhood and how they may approach parenting differently.
Ultimately, when raising children – whether that is through the perceived traditional or non-traditional routes – it is still an exceptionally challenging role and mental health conditions such as perinatal anxiety and depression do not discriminate. It is important to know that support is available; you do not have to go through it alone.
Leonard, W., Pitts, M., Mitchell, A., Lyons, A., Smith, A., & Patel, S. (2012). Private lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians (Vol. no. 86.). Melbourne.
Golombok, S. (2000;2014;). Parenting: What really counts? London: Routledge.
Gorboz, J., Dowsett, G., Mitchell, A., Couch, M., Agius, P., & Pitts, M. (2008). Feeling Queer and Blue: A review of the literature on depression and related issues among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other homosexually active people. A Report from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, prepared for beyondblue: the national depression initiative. Melbourne: La Trobe University, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.