June marks Pride month, with cities around the world marking the occasion with marches, parades, family carnivals, and all kinds of great events. This past weekend we celebrated pride right here in the nation’s capital. Pride is of course about celebrating and supporting our GLBTQI family members, friends, and community. But it’s also a reminder to take stock of and consider the numerous ways our country’s policies, laws, and protections continue to marginalize and discriminate against GLBTQI people. This is especially true for those of us whose identities and various points of privilege affords us the space to not think about this daily.
This weekend as I saw so many families celebrating, I was thinking a lot about continued disparities in mental health treatment, and specifically, in perinatal mental health. While there is very little research on the rates of PMADS in GLBTQI identified parents, findings consistently show an increased risk of PMADS. This could be attributed to several reasons including:
- General higher rates of depression and anxiety
- Lack of family or social support
- Lack of inclusive and affirming services and programs
- Stress related to conception challenges and a possible increased risk of depression following IVF or other assisted reproductive technology (this is true for successful ART as well)
- A sense of isolation
- Lack of services or support for the non-biological parent (remember PMADS can happen to non-biological/adoptive parents)
So, what can we do about this? On a macro level, we absolutely need more research on GLBTQI perinatal mental health. We need governmental policies and funding which protect and support the health and wellness of GLBTQI families. We need to frame the larger discussion of perinatal mental wellness through an inclusive, intersectional lens.
On a community level, there are lots of improvements those of us who work in the field of perinatal wellness can make.
- Make sure the language on your paperwork and questionnaires is inclusive and comprehensive
- Develop programming and resources for GLBTQI clients
- Have a list of GLBTQI affirming allied professionals (e.g. doulas, midwives, lactation consultants) at your ready
- Make sure you are educated and informed about the specific risk factors facing GLBTQI clients
- An extra word on supporting trans and non-binary clients. Consider, the extremely gendered language surrounding pregnancy and the postpartum period or the necessity of certain body parts and functions that may have been disavowed. The perinatal period can be especially complex for trans and non-binary folks and we must be educated and informed.