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Migrant women have mixed experience of birth in NZ

Migrant women have mixed experience of birth in NZ

Migrant women who become new mothers in New Zealand say their cultural needs are often not met or understood by health professionals.

Researchers, funded by the Families Commission Blue Skies Fund, interviewed 40 Chinese, Korean, South African, UK, USA, Indian, Palestinian and Iraqi women about their experience of pregnancy and birth in New Zealand.

Report author Ruth DeSouza of the Auckland University of Technology’s Centre for Asian and Migrant Health Research has made a range of recommendations as a result of the study. These included making improvements to support services and communication, providing translations of relevant information, and more training in understanding cultural needs.

“Many of these women felt that they had poor communication with health professionals and that their need for support and information was not always met. There was also sometimes a lack of understanding about their cultural needs – for instance some Muslim women were concerned that male staff would come into the hospital room without warning, not allowing them time to put on their hajib. For Korean women there was sometimes an issue about not being able to keep warm and eat only warm food after birth as is their custom,” she said.

Some women also felt pressured by the emphasis on breastfeeding and said that not enough advice and support was provided, nor was there enough information provided about formula feeding. Introducing babies solid food was another issue with some women saying that no information was provided relating to ethnic food. “Iron deficiency for example. We don’t know what to feed our babies for this” said one Korean woman.

The women said they often felt isolated and alone and badly missed the support of family and friends. But some also said that they felt much more empowered and self sufficient because they had to actively seek out the information and support that they needed. Some also said their partners became more involved in the pregnancy than would have happened in their home country.

Ruth De Souza says she suspects that some of the issues involving health professionals were common to all mothers – such as spending a long time in doctors’ waiting rooms, having to keep repeating their health information and being given too much or too little information to help with decision-making.

New spaces and possibilities: the adjustment to parenthood for new migrant mothers by Ruth DeSouza of the Centre of Asian and Migrant Health Research at the National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research (AUT) is available from our website www.nzfamilies.org.nz or a printed copy can be requested via enquiries@nzfamilies.org.nz

Ends


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