The Polyamorous Childbearing and Birth Experiences Study (POLYBABES): a qualitative study of the health care experiences of polyamorous families during pregnancy and birth
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BACKGROUND: As many as 1 in 5 adults practise some type of consensual nonmonogamy such as polyamory; many are married, have children, or both. Polyamorous families face unique challenges when accessing care during pregnancy and birth, and qualitative descriptive studies are needed to understand their experiences and inform health care providers' practice. METHODS: Participants, who self-identified as polyamorous, had given birth in the last 5 years and received at least some prenatal care, were recruited through convenience sampling on social media. Any of the birthing individual's partners were also invited to participate. All participants completed a short demographic questionnaire and participated in a semistructured interview. Interview transcripts were coded using Braun and Clarke's iterative thematic analysis. RESULTS: A total of 24 participants, 11 who had given birth and 13 partners, were interviewed. Of those who had given birth, 5 received midwifery care only, 4 received obstetric care exclusively and 2 received shared care. Polyamorous families described sharing many common experiences during pregnancy and birth that were affected by their polyamorous identity. Although participants reported both positive and negative experiences with health care providers, when accessing health care all had experienced some form of marginalization that was related to their polyamorous status. One particular challenge for families was with respect to disclosure of polyamorous identity in hospital environments. Participants offered suggestions for improving the health care of polyamorous families during pregnancy and birth, including creating nonjudgmental spaces, accommodating difference through minimizing administrative barriers and allying with patients by providing patient-led care. INTERPRETATION: Polyamorous families face marginalization when accessing pregnancy and birth care. Care experiences for polyamorous families can be improved by nonjudgmental, open attitudes of health care providers, and modifications to hospital policies to support multiparent families.
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