Author ORCID Identifier 0000-0001-7677-596X

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wendy S. Simonds

Second Advisor

Elisabeth O. Burgess

Third Advisor

Katie L. Acosta


There is a long and pervasive history of conflating “womanhood” and “motherhood” in the United States (U.S.). Expectations (and privileging) of particular gender identities and expressions and “what it means to be a woman” leads to a narrow depiction of how pregnancy (and those who do and don’t go through it) should look. What happens when those identities and expressions diverge from the generally expected standards? Anecdotal evidence and prior research on pregnant lesbians suggest the potential for backlash and poor medical experiences. There has been little attention to pregnant sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) and their medical and/or midwifery care experiences. Invisibility, health care that isn’t caring, and fear of backlash and/or violence are known drivers of health disparities and poorer health outcomes in other populations, including LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ BIPOC peoples.

The overarching goal of this research is to bring to light the experiences of individuals who do not embody or identify with “the "normal" look of a pregnant woman” (@domo.crissy.15, 2017). I employed mixed-methods research and modified-grounded theory methods (mGTM) to analyze surveys completed by 51 non-conventionally-feminine (NCF) and pregnant individuals (or individuals who had previously given birth). I also conducted paid, follow-up interviews with eight of my survey participants. I illustrate how essentialist views of gender intersect with dominant discourses regarding the pregnant body and how these discourses can cause harm to pregnant and birthing people who do not embody the gendered expectations. When medical providers take steps to affirm these individuals’ identities, they can help prevent further medical-related trauma and related health issues (Roberts 1997; Ross and Solinger 2017). This work contributes to current understandings and constructions of gender and the medical treatment of differently gendered and sexed bodies. Not all birthing bodies display include the conventions of femininity and/or motherhood. Further, these persons and identities should be met with affirmation and equitable care, not differential treatment, nor through a lens of pathology. With this work I seek to inform (and improve) medical and midwifery services to gender-diverse populations.


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