Thursday, July 12, 2007
This presentation is part of : Women's Healthcare Models
Caring for Lesbian Couples who Miscarry
Danuta Wojnar, PhD, RN, MN, MEd, College of Nursing, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA
Learning Objective #1: identify unique features of lesbian couples' miscarriage experiences
Learning Objective #2: acknowledge the potential differences in each partner's grief responses after miscarriage and verbalize culturally appropriate caring interventions for use in clinical practice

Purpose: The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological analysis was to explore the caring needs of lesbian birth mothers and their partners subsequent to miscarriage.

Background/Rationale: Miscarriage, unexpected pregnancy loss prior to the point of fetal viability, occurs in 12 to 32% of all pregnancies. Human responses to miscarriage include grief, anxiety, and depression lasting from months to years. In recent years researchers have made attempts to design caring-healing interventions for heterosexual couples who miscarry. Yet, although in recent years five million lesbians in the United States have become mothers, no previous research has addressed caring needs of this minority population subsequent to miscarriage. This research was conducted to fill the gap in knowledge about this important clinical issue.

Sample/Methods/Conceptual framework: Twenty women (10 couples) who self-identified as lesbian, were in a committed relationship, and miscarried as a couple within the past two years, participated in the investigation. Data collection involved individual and couple together interviews with the investigator. All interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using Coliazzi’s (1978) method.

Findings. Caring needs expressed by the couples were captured by the following themes: 1) Striving to understand the stakes and complexities of becoming parents as a lesbian couple; 2) Knowing the potential differences in the partners’ experiences of conception and pregnancy, as well as miscarriage; 3) Acknowledging both partners as grieving parents subsequent to miscarriage; 4) Providing skillful and competent care; 5) Enabling partners to facilitate expression of grief through verbal interaction and rituals; 6) Facilitating the process of ‘moving on.’

Implications. Lesbian couples’ experiences of miscarriage are compounded by the complexities of planning and achieving pregnancy. Practitioners need to be aware of the unique perspectives lesbian partners have on pregnancy and miscarriage and remain sensitive to their unique caring needs.