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Immigrant mums needing more support with newborns

Posted by Kerrie Gottliebsen | 04/06/14

A Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study has found that 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. 

The study 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. 

Researchers took into account 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. 

On average fifteen percent of mums attending a Tweddle residential program are born overseas. In 2012/13 families from 65 different countries attended a Tweddle program speaking 19 different languages at home.  

At a recent ‘Team Parenting’ workshop, Tweddle Social Worker and Family Therapist Roz Membery worked with parents from eight different cultural backgrounds, who despite coming from different countries, were united in their challenges. 

Tweddle CEO Jacquie O’Brien was interested in the study’s findings showing 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. 

“Talking with mums about their emotional well-being and relationships is integral to Tweddle’s assessment of mums seeking help.  Mums call when they are not coping with parenting, and our clinicians help bring other issues to the surface. This is especially pertinent for mums from diverse cultural backgrounds who often have increased difficulties in sharing personal problems” Jacquie said.

Tweddle, although a Statewide service, has a focus on families living across Victoria’s North and West, municipalities that are home to some of Victoria’s most culturally diverse populations. State Government funding for interpreters supports Tweddle in communicating with families from non English speaking backgrounds, who otherwise may not seek the intervention they need. 

We encourage families from all cultural backgounds to discuss early parenting concerns with their health professionals. 

This Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study can be found here.

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