Objective: To provide an overview of the literature regarding lesbian experiences of childbirth and to offer health care providers guidance in supporting the childbearing lesbian couple.
Data sources: A search of the literature from 1980 through 2004 was conducted using PsycINFO, Ovid, PubMed, Ebscohost, and Cinahl, and the key words, lesbian, childbirth, parenting health care providers, pregnancy, artificial insemination, parental rights.
Data extraction: A critical review of all articles from relevant journals was included with attention to the needs of lesbian women concerning childbirth and implications for health care provider care.
Data synthesis: The four areas of concern identified for lesbians considering parenting were (a) the pros and cons of disclosing sexual orientation to caregivers and finding lesbian-sensitive caregivers, (b) the options available when deciding how to conceive, (c) assurance of the desired level of partner involvement, and (d) the legal considerations for the conception process and for the protection of both parents as well as the child. Methods and strategies to assist health care providers to meet the needs of lesbian clients were gleaned from the literature.
Conclusion: A growing numbers of lesbian women are becoming consumers of childbirth health care. Health care outcomes of lesbian women and their infants are affected by experiences during pregnancy and childbirth and by the attitudes and actions of health care providers. Evidence exists that health care outcomes for lesbians are improved when health care providers are knowledgeable about and sensitive to the unique needs of lesbian clients.