"If you don't ask … you don't tell": Refugee women's perspectives on perinatal mental health screening

Suzanne M. Willey, Rebecca P. Blackmore, Melanie E. Gibson-Helm, Razia Ali, Leanne M. Boyd, Jacqueline McBride, Jacqueline A. Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Problem: National guidelines recommending mental health screening in pregnancy have not been implemented well in routine maternity care. Women of refugee background are likely to have experienced traumatic events and resettlement stressors, yet are not often identified with mental health issues in the perinatal period. Background: Globally, perinatal mental health conditions affect up to 20% of women. Many difficulties in accessing mental health care in pregnancy exist for women of refugee background including stigma, and cultural and language barriers. Technology can provide an efficient and effective method to overcome some of these barriers. Aim: To determine if a digital perinatal mental health screening program is feasible and acceptable for women of refugee background. Methods: This qualitative evaluation study used focus group and semi-structured telephone interviews with refugee and migrant women from four communities. Interpreters were used with women who spoke little or no English. Data were analysed using both an inductive and deductive approach to thematic analysis. Findings: Under the three key themes: ‘Women's experiences of perinatal mental health screening in pregnancy’; ‘Barriers and enablers to accessing ongoing mental health care’ and ‘Improvements to the program: the development of audio versions’, women found the program feasible and acceptable. Discussion: Screening using a mobile device offered women more privacy and opened up discussions with midwives on emotional health. Improvements in service coordination and access to further mental health management for women is required. Conclusion: Perinatal mental health screening is an acceptable and feasible option for women of refugee background. Integrated models of care, case management, and patient navigators are options for improvements in uptake of referral and treatment services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e429-e437
Number of pages9
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Evaluation
  • Perinatal mental health
  • Refugee and asylum seeker
  • Screening
  • Women

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