The Lactation Consultant’s Role in Supporting LGBTQ+ Families
Many couples who are part of the LGBTQ+ community have trouble conceiving children. When a couple is unable to conceive, it can be incredibly frustrating. That’s why so many couples turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF) as an option for parenthood. Unfortunately, this process can be costly and time-consuming. As a result, many families will seek resources to help them reduce costs or increase their chances of success with infertility treatments.
Due to their unique parenting challenges, some LGBTQ+ parents may struggle to find support from friends, family members, and medical professionals during fertility treatment. This is why supporting your spouse, partner, or loved ones through infertility treatment at Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN can also be challenging for healthcare providers. However, when you work alongside a lactation consultant during fertility treatment cycles, they can help reduce stress and financial burden on your family by providing affordable services and resources for other household members.
What is a Lactation Consultant?
A lactation consultant is a healthcare provider specially trained to assist breastfeeding mothers. Most lactation consultants have a degree in nursing and have been trained to assist breastfeeding mothers. They often work with a pediatrician, OB/GYN, or other healthcare providers. Their training and experience allow them to help mothers who are having trouble breastfeeding achieve their goals. They can also assist with pumping, assist with scheduling appointments, provide education, and more. Lactation consultants can be part of a clinic, hospital, or practice. They are often found in maternity wards and can assist new mothers recovering from childbirth, but they can also work with patients throughout the year.
Supporting LGBTQ+ Families in Fertility Treatment
When a couple is trying to get pregnant, a lactation consultant can help reduce stress and financial burden on their family by providing affordable services and resources for other household members. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community who is experiencing infertility, support from a lactating consultant can reduce feelings of isolation and isolation during treatment cycles. While your care provider and other household members can be supportive, they may not understand the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people when it comes to infertility. That’s why it can be crucial to have a lactation consultant on staff or in the community to help support others and help families navigate the process.
Success rates for assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF, are often low for all patients, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals have lower pregnancy rates, and even with the use of ovulation-stimulating drugs and hormone replacement therapy, the success rate is lower than for cisgender women. The odds of having a child through fertility treatments are even lower for these couples simply because they are LGBTQ+.
Working Together to Ensure Successful Infertility Treatments
While lactation consultants are typically associated with breastfeeding support after childbirth, they can also play a crucial role in helping LGBTQ+ families achieve successful fertility treatments. Here are some ways that working with a lactation consultant can benefit LGBTQ+ families undergoing fertility treatments:
- Assisting with induced lactation: Induced lactation is when someone who has not given birth can stimulate milk production and breastfeed their child. Lactation consultants can guide the use of hormone therapy, breast pumps, and other techniques to help induce lactation.
- Helping with chestfeeding: For transmasculine individuals who have undergone chest reconstruction surgery, lactation consultants can provide support and guidance on chestfeeding, a process in which milk is produced and fed to a baby from the chest.
- Providing emotional support: Lactation consultants can offer emotional support to LGBTQ+ families who may be navigating unique challenges related to fertility treatments, such as a lack of acceptance from family members or discrimination from healthcare providers.
- Educating on feeding options: Lactation consultants can provide education on various feeding options for babies, including breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, and supplemental feeding with donated breast milk or formula. They can also help families navigate the decision-making process around feeding choices.
- Collaborating with healthcare providers: Lactation consultants can work with healthcare providers, including fertility specialists and pediatricians, to ensure that the unique needs of LGBTQ+ families are met and to provide support throughout the fertility treatment process and after the birth of the baby.
Lactation consultants can play an important role in helping LGBTQ+ families achieve successful fertility treatments and providing ongoing support for feeding and parenting after the baby is born.
Challenges During Fertility Treatment Cycles for LGBTQ+ Families
Fertility treatment can be a challenging experience for any individual or couple, but it can be particularly complex for LGBTQ+ families. Here are some of the challenges that LGBTQ+ families may face during fertility treatment cycles:
- Finding an inclusive fertility clinic: Not all fertility clinics are experienced or equipped to work with LGBTQ+ families, and finding an inclusive and welcoming clinic can be challenging. It’s important to research clinics and read reviews from other LGBTQ+ families to find one that is a good fit.
- Cost of fertility treatment: Fertility treatment can be expensive, and many insurance plans do not cover the cost of treatment for LGBTQ+ individuals or couples. This can create a financial burden, and families may need to explore other financing options or seek grants and other financial assistance programs.
- Emotional stress: Fertility treatment can be emotionally stressful for anyone. However, it can be particularly challenging for LGBTQ+ families who may face stigma and discrimination from society or within their own families. It’s important for families to seek out support from friends, family, or mental health professionals to manage the emotional impact of treatment.
- Legal considerations: In some states or countries, LGBTQ+ families may face legal barriers to accessing fertility treatment or may not have legal recognition as parents. Families need to research their legal rights and protections and work with legal professionals to navigate any legal challenges that may arise.
- Deciding on a donor: For LGBTQ+ families using donor sperm, eggs, or embryos, deciding on a donor can be a complex process. Families may want to consider the physical and personal characteristics of the donor, as well as any potential genetic or medical risks. It’s important to work with a reputable sperm or egg bank and seek counseling to help with the decision-making process.
Fertility treatment can be a challenging but rewarding journey for LGBTQ+ families. Finding a supportive clinic, seeking emotional and legal support, and making informed decisions about the donor and treatment options are important.
Supporting LGBTQ+ Parents After Successful Treatment
Many couples undergo less than five rounds of in vitro fertilization. Unfortunately, successful treatment on the first try does not mean that a couple can conceive children easily. As with cisgender heterosexual couples, many LGBTQ+ couples will struggle to continue fertility treatments and successfully conceive children using assisted reproductive technology. Whether you pursue adoption or choose to parent naturally, ensuring the well-being of children who were not conceived through traditional means can be a challenge.
There are a variety of issues that LGBTQ+ parents may face after fertility treatments. For example, parents may experience feelings of guilt, worry, or denial that their fertility treatments didn’t work. In addition, suppose you and your spouse/partner/spouse could not conceive while using assisted reproductive technology. In that case, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider about these and other issues related to LGBTQ+ fertility treatment and parenting.
The health and well-being of your loved ones are incredibly important, and reducing the stress of infertility treatment and parenthood can be challenging for all families. In addition, many LGBTQ+ couples may experience higher rates of infertility, making it even more challenging for these families to have a child. A lactation consultant can be a valuable resource for LGBTQ+ families during fertility treatment cycles and after successful treatment, allowing you to spend more time supporting your family and less time dealing with the challenges of fertility treatment.
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