Date Published: February 11, 2019
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Tharanga Navodani, Deirdre Gartland, Stephanie J. Brown, Elisha Riggs, Jane Yelland, Yong-hui Dang.
Migrant women of non-English speaking background make up an increasing proportion of women giving birth in high income countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of common physical and psychosocial health problems during pregnancy and up to 18 months postpartum among migrant women of non-English speaking background compared to Australian-born women.
Prospective pregnancy cohort study of 1507 nulliparous women. Women completed self-administered questionnaires or telephone interviews in early and late pregnancy and at 3, 6, 9, 12 and 18 months postpartum. Standardised instruments were used to assess incontinence, depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence.
Migrant women of non-English speaking background (n = 243) and Australian-born mothers (n = 1115) reported a similar pattern of physical health problems during pregnancy and postpartum. The most common physical health problems were: exhaustion, back pain, constipation and urinary incontinence. Around one in six Australian-born women (16.9%) and more than one in four migrant women (22.5%) experienced intimate partner abuse in the first 12 months postpartum. Compared to Australian-born women, migrant women were more likely to report depressive symptoms at 12 and 18 months postpartum.
Physical and mental health problems are common among women of non-English speaking background and Australian-born women, and frequently persist up to 18 months postpartum. Migrant women experience a higher burden of postpartum depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence, and may face additional challenges accessing appropriate care and support.
Pregnancy and childbirth are major life events that place complex demands on women’s physical and psychological health and wellbeing The physical and emotional changes associated with pregnancy and early motherhood can be especially challenging for migrant women having a baby in a new country One third of all women giving birth in Australia are migrants, the majority coming from a country where English is not the main language or official language . Migrant women of non-English speaking background settling in high income countries are known to experience multiple and varied barriers accessing perinatal health care [4–7]. A comparative review of studies conducted in five high income countries found that communication problems, perceived discrimination and lack of familiarity with health care systems had a negative impact on migrant women’s experiences of care .
Globally, a sizeable proportion of women giving birth in high income countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom are migrants from an increasingly diverse range of countries. The rapid increase in the scale, speed and spread of migration is generating complex challenges for maternity services . There is a growing body of evidence that migrant women of non-English speaking background giving birth in high income countries are at higher risk of a range of adverse birth outcomes, including stillbirth, neonatal mortality and morbidity, and even maternal death  However, little is known about the health and well-being of migrant mothers during pregnancy and in the period after childbirth, and how this compares to the health of native-born women.