PRIDE brings rainbow-filtered Facebook profiles, multicolored corporate messaging, and some of NYC’s best summer celebrations. And I must say, I think this is a fabulous development. The fact that everyone wants to be included in PRIDE is beautiful. But when it comes to healthcare, rainbow swag in the waiting room doesn’t necessarily equate with LGBTQ+ competent providers. During pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, it can be especially challenging to feel fully supported as an LGBTQ+ parent.
The birth world is so steeped in hetero- and cis- assumptions, that it can be hard to imagine what an LGBTQ+ inclusive birth team would even look like. So let’s begin by talking about what makes an LGBTQ+ competent provider:
Inclusive language: At the most basic level, a practitioner should have the vocabulary to discuss your health. Fluency in relevant terminology shows a commitment to making sure LGBTQ+ people don’t feel like an inconvenient anomaly in the birth world
Asking the right questions: An intake form allows clients to share their basic medical history but, only if the right questions are being asked. A competent provider recognizes that a person’s identity as LGBTQ+ is relevant to their health preferences, needs, and expectations.
Relevant resources and referrals: Clients count on their birth team for all sorts of referrals and resources during pregnancy and postpartum. An LGBTQ+ friendly provider may not realize that the majority of books and facts sheets are heteronormative and don’t reflect their LGBTQ+ families. But a competent provider will consider the extra financial hurdles that parents may have gone through just to become pregnant, and will take into account the impact this may have on options for services during the pregnancy.
Commitment to continuing education: LGBTQ+ competency, like any type of expertise or specialization, takes training and ongoing education. The resources, legal rights, and medical research for the LGBTQ+ community is constantly growing and changing. To offer full support to LGBTQ+ people during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, providers need to be committed to ongoing education.
Now that we have this picture of an ideal provider, where do we find them? How can we pull together this queer competent birth team? Here are some ways to begin building a list of options:
1. Ask other LGBTQ+ parents.
Families who have been through the birth process are an amazing resources. Queer parent groups are a great way to hear about people’s experiences first hand. They’ll be able to tell you who was the all-star on their birth team, and who you might want think twice about working with. Personally, I can recommend the groups at Brooklyn Acupuncture Project and here at Love Child Yoga.
2. Ask the hospital or birthing center for a list.
If you’re doing a tour of a hospital or birthing center, ask for a list of LGBTQ+ competent providers. Not all institutions will have this, but it’s a good reflection of how much effort they’ve put into making sure that all birthing people and families are supported in their space. You may also want to ask for clarification on whether the list differentiates between “friendly” and “competent” providers.
3. Going to a LGBTQ+ inclusive childbirth education class.
A childbirth education class is a great place to start asking questions and collecting referrals for all your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum needs. An LGBTQ+ inclusive course will be designed to meet the needs of a broad range of expectant people. Some that I would recommend are Bilen Bernahu, (Love Child Yoga), Morgane Richardson (Juniper), and the educators at Manhattan Birth.
4. Contact LGBTQ+ competency trainers
There are a handful of people who offer trainings to health care providers in LGBTQ+ cultural competency. They’ll know who's done the work and who is just offering rainbow colored swag. Morgane Richardson trains OB’s, midwives, nurses, and doulas around the US; and the Birthing Beyond the Binary team looks like an amazing initiative as well.
If you have other tips about how to find your LGBTQ+ competent birth team, please do send them in! We would love to hear about your ideas and advice so that we can include them here.
About the author:
Dr. Alexandra Garcia is a doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine working with the Love Child team to support new and expectant parents and their children. She also provides acupuncture and acupressure to laboring people at NYU Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn where she serves on the hospital’s LGBT+ Advisory Board. She is working toward becoming an LGBTQ+ competent provider; She gives great thanks to her wife Morgane V. Richardson who has encouraged her to constantly challenge her own assumptions about the world of birth.