Otago Polytechnic to lead research project on trans and non-binary-inclusive maternity care


Otago Polytechnic’s School of Midwifery - Te Kura Atawhai kā Kaiakopono te Hākuitaka has been granted almost $180,000 to research trans, non-binary and takatāpui-inclusive maternity care.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand announced today (Friday 9 July) it has confirmed $178,513 in funding for the study, “Understanding the need for trans and non-binary-inclusive maternity care”.

The research project, to be conducted by five academics and expected to be completed in early 2023, is led by Otago Polytechnic, and includes Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington and Waikato University.

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

“Health services play a key role in either compounding or alleviating these disparities,” Dr Parker says.

“Existing research on the experiences of trans and non-binary people in maternity services is limited and there is no research that describes how trans, non-binary and takatāpui people and whānau experience New Zealand’s unique maternity services with our midwife-led care.

“International research suggests that maternity care is often unsafe and inadequate for trans and non-binary people,” Dr Parker says.

“Current issues include a lack of gender-inclusive language, lack of gender-inclusive bathrooms and other facilities, data systems that make it difficult or impossible to capture gender identity, and unwelcoming and transphobic attitudes from maternity providers.”

Those involved in the research project hope it will inform future policy direction and educate health professionals to provide clinically and culturally competent care.

“Pregnant trans, non-binary and takatāpui people are currently marginalised from access to maternity  services,” Dr Parker says.

“Our research team has consulted widely with community groups and, to help address equity for Māori, includes takatāpui advocates who will advise on all stages of the research ensuring indigenous ways of knowing and knowledge production are supported.”

The project builds on Otago Polytechnic’s leadership in the field of gender-inclusive midwifery care.

Otago Polytechnic’s School of Midwifery has developed a postgraduate course for midwives called “Queering Midwifery”, which includes education on the care of trans, non-binary and takatāpui whānau and is a New Zealand-first.

The School of Midwifery is also leading the integration of gender-inclusive concepts into its Bachelor of Midwifery programme, so that future midwives are equipped to provide safe and quality care for trans, non-binary and takatāpui families.

In confirming Otago Polytechnic’s funding application, the Health Research Council acknowledges the importance of the study.

HRC Chief Executive Professor Sunny Collings says this research is one of several projects announced today through a joint funding initiative with the Ministry of Health to invest in projects that will help achieve equitable maternal and infant health outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“This particular project may be a small research area, but it has the potential to make a huge difference for takatāpui and gender-diverse people seeking and accessing maternity care,” says Professor Collings.