Labour MP Nadia Whittome calls for investigation into NHS ‘blocking’ trans pregnancy advice

Nadia Whittome arriving at the BBC to appear on the Andrew Marr Show.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome has called for a “thorough investigation” into why NHS management blocked pregnancy advice for trans and non-binary people for almost a year.

The NHS published resources for pregnant trans and non-binary people to its website on Tuesday (31 May), two days after a whistleblower revealed it had been “blocked” for almost a year.

Included in the new “having a baby if you’re LGBT+” resource is guidance on what options are available for LGBTQ+ people hoping to start a family, such as intrauterine insemination and adoption, as well as information on how trans and non-binary people can get pregnant while taking testosterone.

A third helpsheet advises how some people who have undergone top surgery can chestfeed and how chestfeeding a child can be done while binding.

The advice was sat on for almost a year, with its existence only becoming public knowledge in an article published by the i on 29 May.

The outlet spoke to a whistleblower who revealed that leaders “blocked” the pages, and said they believed “anti-trans views in parts of NHS England management” may have been at the root of the decision.

The whistleblower said that NHS advice usually rarely takes a year to be published, and that senior officials had debated “spilling the beans”.

“This was a big piece of research, made by speaking to a whole range of people – different genders – to understand their user needs,” they told the i.

After the apparent U-turn, Labour MP Nadia Whittome called for a “thorough investigation”.

She warned that the incident shows how “dangerous” bigotry can be in Britain.

“I’m pleased that the NHS has finally published guidance for pregnant trans and non-binary people, but there must be a thorough investigation into why it was sat on for almost a year,” Whittome, who represents Nottingham East, told PinkNews.

“The NHS has a duty towards all patients. Moral panic and transphobia must not prevent access to vital health information.”

After the NHS pregnancy advice was released, the whistleblower told the i: “I feel relieved to see that they’re doing the right thing. But it’s a real shame that it took this [speaking to the media] for it to happen.

“It shows that there are still people working at NHS Digital who really care and who will advocate for minoritised groups.”

The NHS’ news advice for LGBTQ+ people oranges from how to start a family to chest feeding while on testosterone. (HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence welcomed the guidance’s publication, but was troubled by the apparent blocking.

“Let’s not forget, however, that this was in response to a whistleblower, not the healthcare needs of trans parents,” the group told PinkNews.

“This guidance was available for almost a year but was blocked for political reasons. Trans people already face shockingly poor standards of natal care compared to our cis counterparts, and it is unacceptable that this guidance – guidance that could literally save lives – was withheld to appease those with anti-trans views.”

The Pride in Surgery Forum, a network of LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals, agreed.

“NHS leadership blocking the publication of vital healthcare advice for trans and non-binary people suggests a worrying lack of diversity at the top,” the group said.

“The needs of patients from minority groups are better served when those providing their healthcare are as diverse as they are.”

NHS pages are reviewed every few years to “reassure users that a page is up to date”, according to the NHS website.

“Ways to become a parent if you’re LGBTQ+” was “last reviewed” 4 May 2020. The two pages on testosterone and chestfeeding for trans people were both “last reviewed” in December 2021.

Trans and non-binary birthing people face many hurdles within healthcare. Researchers say that many fear that healthcare staff, who are not always trained to support them, will discriminate, misgender or even refuse to help them.

This can make them feel “disempowered”, the researchers said, adding: “Anticipatory guidance from providers was central in promoting security and empowerment for these individuals as patients.”

Three in 10 trans and non-binary parents-to-be do not access perinatal care on the NHS or privately, a survey by the LGBT Foundation found. Twenty-eight per cent of those who did receive care say they were “not treated with dignity and respect”.

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS website provides information for everyone, and we add pages to the site to keep it in line with the best clinical evidence and make it as helpful as possible to everyone who needs it.”