Otago Polytechnic leads research on trans and non-binary-inclusive maternity care

The findings of a two-year Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga-led research project on trans and non-binary-inclusive maternity care will be released on Thursday 27 July.

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In May 2021, Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga School of Midwifery was granted almost $180,000 in joint funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and Manatū Hauora (Ministry of Health) for the project.

The research project has been led by Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga, and includes Te Herenga Waka -Victoria University of Wellington, Te Whare Wananga o Waikato - Waikato University, and the Tiwhanawhana Trust.

“Transgender, non-binary and takatāpui people experience significant health disparities compared to the general population,” says lead researcher Dr George Parker (they/them), who moved from Otago Polytechnic’s School of Midwifery to Victoria University of Wellington’s Te Kura Tātai Hauora - School of Health in 2021.

“Before this project, there was limited research on the experiences of trans and non-binary people in maternity services. Now we have a body of work that describes how trans, non-binary and takatāpui people and whānau experience New Zealand’s unique matern”

Andrew McSweeney, DCE Learner Employer Experience and Attraction, Te Pūkenga, will attend an event at Parliament House on Thursday 27 July to celebrate the release of the research report, titled “Warming the Whare for trans people and whānau in perinatal care”.

“At Te Pūkenga, we are driven by a belief in the transformative power of education, and we are committed to seeing its benefits shared as widely as possible. We are also dedicated to meeting the needs of those who have not been well served by our education system. 

“So, we are proud to lead this research, which strongly aligns with the principles of Te Pūkenga, fostering connections with communities and contributing to a more inclusive society in Aotearoa New Zealand,” Mr McSweeney says.

The research team comprised Dr Parker, Assoc Prof Suzanne Miller (Otago Polytechnic), Prof Sally Baddock (Otago Polytechnic), Alex Ker (Otago Polytechnic), Dr Jamie Veale (Waikato University)  and Dr Elizabeth Kerekere (Tīwhanawhana Trust), with support from takatāpui parent advisor Scout Barbour-Evans.

The project had two distinct phases. The first involved qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 20 trans whānau (29 participants in total including gestational and non-gestational parents) who were on their whānau-building journey from trying to conceive through to the early years of parenting.

The narratives from phase one were augmented by extensive consultation with Tangata Whenua, health professional organisations and community trans advocacy groups, all of which informed phase two – an anonymous online nationwide survey of perinatal healthcare providers.

“Those survey findings provided an encouraging glimpse of an appetite for change within the practice of perinatal care providers, albeit acknowledging the current limitations of poor resourcing and lack of education opportunities to support progress towards to a more equitable and inclusive perinatal care service,” Dr Parker says.

The result of both phases is the completion of a set of innovative trans-inclusive practice guidelines, which aim to help the perinatal sector. The guidelines address a range of issues, including gender-inclusive language, gender-inclusive bathrooms and other facilities, data systems that capture gender identity, and a range of measures that seek a more equitable and inclusive perinatal care service.

“The guidelines are unique in that they are informed by a Te Ao Māori model of wellbeing, Te Whāre Takatāpui,” Dr Parker notes.

The framework comprises six values: Whakapapa (genealogy), Wairua (spirituality), Mauri (life spark), Mana (authority/self-determination), Tapu (sacredness) and Tikanga (rules and protocols).

“Each represents a different part of a wharenui (ancestral meeting house). When these values are accounted for, the Whare can shelter and nurture trans people and whānau in perinatal care,” Dr Parker says.

“We know health services want to do better in this space. With these guidelines, we have an opportunity to do exactly that.”


Published 26 July 2023

Published on 26 Jul 2023