Researching for LGBTQ Health

Postpartum Mental Health among Visible and Invisible Sexual Minority Women

Postpartum depression is a significant health issue for women and their families, yet research has focused almost exclusively on heterosexual married women. Sexual minority mothers may have distinct risk factors for postpartum depression. For example, experiences of discrimination have been associated with mental health outcomes in the general LGBTQ2S+ community.

No studies have evaluated the impact of “minority stress” on the mental health of lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women during the first postpartum year, a time of particular vulnerability to depression. While a very small body of research has focused on mental health in new LBQ moms, these studies focus specifically on visible sexual minority women – that is, women who identify as lesbian or bisexual and who are partnered with other women. Our preliminary data indicates that invisible sexual minority women (i.e., women who have a history of sexual relationships with women, but who are currently partnered with men) are at elevated risk for postpartum depression, compared to visible sexual minority women and heterosexual women. Our project aims to build upon this work and understand these differences.

This was a multi-site, international, (Toronto, Canada, and Boston, US) study that included surveys with visible sexual minority women, invisible sexual minority women, and heterosexual women to better understand the mental health of these three groups. We wanted to collect rich and nuanced data about the experiences of our invisible sexual minority sample in particular, since these women are often left out of research on sexual minority women. To do this, participants in this group were invited to complete 4 semi-structured interviews, 1-2 hours long. These one-on-one interviews touched on themes such as pregnancy experiences, social support, disclosure of sexual orientation, experiences of discrimination, connection to community, mental health and health care experiences.

To learn more about this study and our findings, please visit our project-specific website Queering Parenthood.


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This project was funded by the National Institute of Health.

Project Outcomes:

Publications from the project so far include:

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