Disclosure in maternity care contexts: the paradigm case of sexual orientation
: the paradigm case of sexual orientation

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis is a hermeneutic phenomenological study of the concept of disclosure in maternity care contexts using the example of sexual orientation. There is a significant body of literature within psychology and sociology relating to the health and social purposes and consequences of disclosure. There is a further body of outcomes-focused evidence relating to disclosure of sexual orientation in health care. There is, however, little research undertaken into the disclosure of sexual orientation in pregnancy as an action with motive and purpose. This study aimed to address this issue. The study employed unstructured interviews with eight lesbian mothers, seven of whom were birth mothers and one was a social mother. The hermeneutic method used an iterative process of analysis integrating researcher pre-understandings, thematic analysis of individual interview transcripts and broader analysis of the individual interview data within the total interview data, exploring the parts within the whole. The aim was to identify the shared meaning of disclosure for the participants Data analysis resulted in five main themes: being invisible/visible; being upfront; being me; being entitled; being safe. An additional finding was the process of managing negativity through strategies such as rationalisation. Three encompassing concepts were identified: protection; power; and identity. Two motivations for disclosure were also identified: pro-action and altruism The thesis concludes that disclosure is a motivated and purposeful act which has real meaning and consequences. It makes extensive recommendations for midwifery practice including acknowledging the disclosure, understanding the legal complexity, and recognising the lesbian family. Recommendations for policy suggest having explicit and detailed policies that include information about how to be inclusive rather than only abstract concepts of inclusion. Recommendations for research include qualitative and quantitative research with midwives about attitudes and knowledge as well as research exploring the role of the social mother in promoting family health outcomes.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSheila Hunt (Supervisor), Markus Themessl-Huber (Supervisor), Julie Taylor (Supervisor) & Fiona Raitt (Supervisor)


    • Lesbian mothers
    • Disclosure
    • Maternity care
    • Hermeneutic phenomenology

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