Experts share advice for LGBTQ+ parents on unexpected emotional issues


‘The world of parenthood being set up in a heteronormative way can cause issues’ (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Many LGBTQ+ couples choose to start a family by reproductive donations.

It could be a lesbian couple opting for donor insemination, where donated sperm is put inside the person who is going to carry the baby.

Or it might be a gay couple going down the egg donation and surrogacy route.

Either way, parenthood can be an exciting and nerve-wracking rollercoaster. But, a few unexpected emotional issues could crop up along the way – particularly for the non-biological parent.

‘The world of parenthood being set up in a heteronormative way can cause other issues,’ explains Navit Schechter, a CBT therapist and founder of Conscious & Calm.

‘There can be a lack of support and understanding of your experience in mainstream “mum groups”, but the “dad groups” don’t reflect your experience too. 

‘Without examples of what other parents do, what this role can look like or could be and how you can bond if you’re not feeding, it can perpetuate feelings of disconnection from the whole process – making the transition to parenthood and attachment with your baby harder.’

As a result, experts have shared some of the unexpected issues new LGBTQ+ parents might encounter – plus how they can tackle them.

Struggles with bonding from non-biological parent

A non-biological parent might find it more difficult to bond (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘With same-sex couples who choose sperm or egg donation, the issue of lack of bonding for the non-biological parent seems to appear often,’ explains psychotherapist Caron Barruw.

‘It’s often unexpected and difficult when this issue occurs.’

But, thankfully, there are a number of things that can help.

What do experts suggest?

Navit says it’s understandable that a non-biological parent could be concerned that their child might form a stronger bond with their birth parent – particularly with mothers. 

She adds: ‘Being aware of your thoughts and feelings around this, speaking to your partner, friends and family about how you’re feeling and seeking help if your concerns are getting in the way of your day-to-day life (and being able to enjoy your baby) may all help you to navigate this time.’

Navit stresses there are things parents can do both antenatally and postnatally to try and tackle this.

‘Antenatally, spending time connecting with the bump can help the non-biological parent to feel connected. Talking to your unborn child, feeling it moving and attending the antenatal appointments can all help you to bond,’ says Navit.

She also suggests spending time thinking about what the roles of both parents will look like – for example, deciding who will do what after the birth (and how) can help both parents feel more connected to the baby.  

Navit adds: ‘Postnatally, there are a number of things that can help the non-biological feel more bonded to their baby. Many find skin-to-skin contact to help. 

‘In response to skin-to-skin contact, the body secretes the hormone oxytocin which creates feelings of love and connection helping you develop your bond with your baby.’

This is something backed-up by motherhood therapist Chelsea Robinson, who says it’s important for non-biological parents to take any opportunity to feed their baby, or help them settle to sleep. 

She says: ‘Attachment comes overtime as you help to create the environment and stability the baby learns to see as their home.

‘Take steps throughout the day to share in the daily tasks of newborn care – as not only a way of building that bond, but also in supporting your partner to heal and rest themselves. 

‘And the night shift can also be another opportunity for bonding with your baby.’

The non-biological parent feeling left out

‘Sharing various responsibilities and roles can help both feel included’ (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Usually, with sperm and egg donation, just one parent will be related to the child. So, naturally, this might cause feelings of disconnection for the other parent.

What’s more, some of the very physical acts of mothering – such as breastfeeding (which is often connected to the experience of developing maternal identity) – might cause the non-biological parent to feel isolated.

What do experts suggest?

If a non-biological parent is feeling left out, experts suggest finding other ways to care for your baby, as well as establishing your role within their life, as this can help a person feel more involved and connected.

Navit says: ‘This can be as simple as spending one-on-one time with your baby, so that you get to know them and are more able to read them and respond to their needs. 

‘Feeding your baby in other ways can also aid bonding, so using a bottle with expressed breastmilk or formula are other options that can also be considered.

‘Some non-biological parents may want to attempt breastfeeding, as it is possible for some women to establish a milk supply even when they haven’t given birth.’

This is possible through hormone therapy – and is known as induced lactation – but it’s a pretty complex process and is worth chatting to experts about this if you’re seriously considering it.

Navit also stresses that even if a milk supply can’t be established, babies get comfort from being at the breast (known as nursing, or non-nutritive sucking). This means a non-biological parent can use to soothe their baby, if they feel comfortable trying it.

Sheena Tann-Shah, a rapid therapy practitioner and the author of Perfectly Imperfect Mum, also stresses communication between parties is key if someone feels left out.

She explains: ‘Talking about what a partner is feeling, and when they are feeling this, is vital in addressing the situation.’

Then, taking steps to involve a parent to allow more inclusion can be incorporated.

She adds: ‘Maybe, if one person is breastfeeding, the other parent can be there after to take over when the baby needs – and also take on other roles such as giving a baby massage or skin-to-skin contact. 

‘Sharing various responsibilities and roles can help both feel included.’

Jealousy about a partner carrying or birthing a child

Navit says: ‘If you’re feeling jealous that your partner is carrying the baby and/or will birth it, understanding your thoughts around this can be really helpful and will and allow you to become clear on what exactly it is that you are feeling jealous about. 

‘For example, that your baby will be more connected to their biological mother or that you’re not receiving as much attention or recognition as your pregnant partner is.’

What do experts suggest?

Sheena says: ‘It’s important to be open and honest about feelings. Otherwise, these feelings will continue to increase and impact negatively on what is a beautiful journey.’

It’s also a good idea to reach out when needed – such as looking to LGBTQ+ support groups, or turning to other same-sex couples who have been through similar situations.

Navit continues: ‘Talking to others – like your partner, friends or family – may help you to work through your feelings, as can speaking to a professional.

‘If your feelings of jealousy are frequent, overwhelming or are affecting your mood and day-to-day life, seeking support from a counsellor or therapist can help you to work through them. 

‘Becoming a parent is a difficult transition for many people. The support of a person’s extended circle; close friends and family can aid this transition. So discussing with them, the support that you may need from those around you in the early days and establishing your bond with your baby can aid in the transition to parenthood.’



Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride

This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.


MORE : The LGBTQ Pride events happening in the UK and beyond to travel to this summer


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Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride

This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.





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