Background: Although pregnancy loss is a distressing health event for many women, research typically equates women’s experiences of pregnancy loss to ‘married heterosexual women’s experiences of pregnancy loss’. The objective of this study was to explore lesbian and bisexual women’s experiences of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Methods: This study analysed predominantly qualitative online survey data from 60 non-heterosexual, mostly lesbian, women from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. All but one of the pregnancies was planned. Most respondents had physically experienced one early miscarriage during their first pregnancy, although a third had experienced multiple losses. Results: The analysis highlights three themes: processes and practices for conception; amplification of loss; and health care and heterosexism. Of the respondents, 84% conceived using donor sperm; most used various resources to plan conception and engaged in preconception health care. The experience of loss was amplified due to contextual factors and the investment respondents reported making in impending motherhood. Most felt that their loss(es) had made a ‘significant’/‘very significant’ impact on their lives. Many respondents experienced health care during their loss. Although the majority rated the overall standard of care as ‘good’/‘very good’/‘outstanding’, a minority reported experiencing heterosexism from health professionals. Conclusions: The implications for policy and practice are outlined. The main limitation was that the inflexibility of the methodology did not allow the specificities of women’s experiences to be probed further. It is suggested that both coupled and single non-heterosexual women should be made more visible in reproductive health and pregnancy loss research.
Bibliographical note© The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/uk/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
- pregnancy loss
- lesbian and bisexual women
- online survey