Lesbian women's experiences with health care: a qualitative study

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2009;27(4):238-43. doi: 10.3109/02813430903226548.


Background: Although the social situation for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people has improved over the last decades, lesbian women still face unique challenges when seeking healthcare services.

Objectives: To explore lesbian women's healthcare experiences specifically related to sexual orientation to achieve knowledge which can contribute to increased quality of healthcare for lesbian women.

Methods: Qualitative study based on written stories, with recruitment, information, and data sampling over the internet. Data consisted of 128 anonymously written answers to a web-based, open-ended questionnaire from a convenience sample of self-identified lesbian women. Data were analysed with systematic text condensation. Interpretation of findings was supported by theories of heteronormativity. Main outcome measures. Patients' histories of experiences where a lesbian orientation was significant, when seeing a doctor or another healthcare professional.

Results: Analysis presented three different aspects of healthcare professionals' abilities, regarded as essential by our lesbian participants. First, the perspective of awareness was addressed--is the healthcare professional able to think of and facilitate the disclosure of a lesbian orientation? Second, histories pointed to the attitudes towards homosexuality--does the healthcare professional acknowledge and respect the lesbian orientation? Third, the impact of specific and adequate medical knowledge was emphasized--does the healthcare professional know enough about the specific health concerns of lesbian women?

Conclusion: To obtain quality care for lesbian women, the healthcare professional needs a persistent awareness that not all patients are heterosexual, an open attitude towards a lesbian orientation, and specific knowledge of lesbian health issues. The dimensions of awareness, attitude, and knowledge are interconnected, and a positive direction on all three dimensions appears to be a necessary prerequisite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prejudice
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult