"They can't understand it": maternity health and care needs of immigrant Muslim women in St. John's, Newfoundland

Sylvia Reitmanova, Diana L Gustafson
Maternal and Child Health Journal 2008, 12 (1): 101-11

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this qualitative study was to document and explore the maternity health care needs and the barriers to accessing maternity health services from the perspective of immigrant Muslim women living in St. John's, Canada.

METHODS: A purposive approach was used in recruiting six individuals to participate in in-depth semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using a two-step process of content analysis. Three metathemes were identified and compared to previous research on maternity health and the care needs of immigrant women.

RESULTS: Women experienced discrimination, insensitivity and lack of knowledge about their religious and cultural practices. Health information was limited or lacked the cultural and religious specificity to meet their needs during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum phases. There were also significant gaps between existing maternity health services and women's needs for emotional support, and culturally and linguistically appropriate information. This gap was further complicated by the functional and cultural adjustments associated with immigration.

CONCLUSIONS: Maternity health care information and practices designed to meet the needs of mainstream Canadian-born women lacked the flexibility to meet the needs of immigrant Muslim women. Recommendations for change directed at decision makers include improving access to culturally and linguistically appropriate maternity and health related information, developing the diversity responsiveness of health care providers and the organizations where they work and establishing social support networks and partnerships with immigrant communities. Changes that address the needs of immigrant Muslim women have the potential to create more inclusive and responsive maternity health services for all Canadian women.

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