“Only my husband and my doctor know. and you, girls”: Online discussions of stigma coping strategies for Russian surrogate mothers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


(1) Background: Gestational surrogacy is the most common type of surrogacy today. Although technologically well-developed and legal in many countries, it challenges and even contradicts the basic traditional concepts of family, motherhood, and gender roles. In the present study, we examined the types of stigma coping strategies surrogate mothers discussed in an online support group in post-Soviet Russia. (2) Method: We conducted a qualitative thematic analysis of 15,602 posts on a Russian-language online support group for surrogate mothers. (3) Findings: group members discussed four types of coping strategies: stigma internalization, stigma avoidance, group identification, and stigma challenging. Nevertheless, these strategies varied across the surrogate motherhood stages. Group members advised each other on specific strategies to use to cope with the state of discreditable (invisible) stigma (i.e., during the first few months of their pregnancies), with different strategies for when the pregnancies became visible and they risked becoming discredited people. Furthermore, group members disclosed that they used these strategies even when they returned to their previous family and work routines. Theoretically, our findings challenge Goffman’s classic theoretical dichotomy and coping research concerning discreditable (invisible) and discredited (visible) stigma. (4) Conclusion: Our findings indicate that surrogate mothers anticipate experiencing stigma and therefore plan for it by discussing potential coping strategies in the online group. Moreover, any intervention designed to cater to the needs of surrogate mothers must, therefore, take into consideration the social needs of their entire family.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11325
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number21
StatePublished - 29 Oct 2021


  • Coping
  • Family norms
  • Online support
  • Russia
  • Stigma
  • Surrogate mothers
  • surrogacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of '“Only my husband and my doctor know. and you, girls”: Online discussions of stigma coping strategies for Russian surrogate mothers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this