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Immigrant mums feeling the stress

Research News
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Immigrant women of non-English speaking backgrounds report greater psychological distress, less emotional satisfaction with their partner and more relationship problems in the first three months after birth than women born in Australia.

A 2009 Murdoch Children's study found that, while immigrant mothers had an equivalent level of contact with primary care practitioners in this time, they were less likely to be asked about their emotional well-being or about relationship problems by health professionals.

Despite the vast numbers of women around the globe giving birth away from their native land, there has been little research examining the physical and psychological health of immigrant women giving birth in English speaking countries.

The study reported on the health and wellbeing of 1507 women during pregnancy and after the birth of their first child - 209 immigrant women and 1072 Australian born, 138 women born overseas in countries where English is first language.

It found that immigrant women were significantly more likely to report feeling depressed in the three months after birth (28 per cent compared with 17 per cent). These women also reported significantly lower emotional satisfaction with their relationship with their partner, and were less likely to be asked about their emotional well-being or about relationship problems by GPs and MCHNs than Australian born women.

Discussion about the reasons around these results considered that the challenges associated with economic strain and experiences dealing with the western health system may affect immigrant women's emotional well-being.

Also taken into account were the different cultural practices and traditions surrounding the transition to motherhood, the lower likelihood of immigrant women disclosing problems, and past studies having shown that a lack of social support is a contributor to postpartum depressive symptoms among this group.

The study highlights the need for further research to inform the development of appropriate primary care support in developed countries with growing immigrant populations.