Postpartum depression is a significant health issue for people who experience pregnancy and the people who support them, but past research has almost always focused almost on women partnered with men, or heterosexual women (HW). We know from previous research that LGBTQ women have different risks for postpartum depression depending on their sexual history and the gender identity of their current partner.
Funded by NIH, this is the first study of its kind that has evaluated Meyers' concept of "minority stress" in relation to the mental health of lesbian, bisexual, and queer women during their first postpartum year, and examined how relationship configurations impact these health outcomes. For this reason, we classified sexual minority participants into two groups. Visible sexual minority women (VSM group) are participants that identify as lesbian or queer and are currently partnered with women. Invisible sexual minority women (ISM group) report having recently had female sexual partners and/or identifying with a sexual minority label, but are partnered with men. Because of this they are often perceived as being "straight" or in a "straight relationship", hence their sexual minority identity is invisible.
This was a multi-site, international, (Toronto, Canada, and Boston, US) study that included surveys with all three groups of women (ISM, VSM and HW) to better understand the mental health of these three groups. We wanted to collect rich and nuanced data about the experiences of our ISM 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.
About 100 women completed online surveys, and about 30 ISM women completed one-on-one interviews between 2013-2016. Our participants were recruited through 16 midwifery and obstetrical clinics in the Boston and Toronto areas using surveys that were distributed to all women accessing care at these sites.