Implementing innovative evidence-based perinatal mental health screening for women of refugee background

Suzanne M. Willey, Melanie E. Gibson-Helm, Tracy L. Finch, Christine E. East, Nadia N. Khan, Leanne M. Boyd, Jacqueline A. Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Problem: National guidelines recommend repeated screening for depression and anxiety for all women in the perinatal period. Routine screening in pregnancy is limited due to service, community and individual barriers. Background: Perinatal depression and perinatal anxiety affect up to 20% of all women. Women of refugee background are at even greater risk for perinatal mental health conditions due to refugee experiences and resettlement stressors. Aim: To evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a perinatal mental health screening program for women of refugee background from the perspective of health professionals. Methods: A mixed methods design guided by the Normalization Process Theory was used. Data were collected at a dedicated refugee antenatal clinic in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. An online survey (n = 38), focus groups (n = 2; 13 participants) and semi-structured interviews (n = 8; 11 participants) with health professionals were conducted. Findings: Under the four constructs of the Normalization Process Theory, health professionals reported improvements in identifying and referring women with mental health issues, more open and in-depth conversations with women about mental health and valued using an evidenced-based measure. Key issues included professional development, language barriers and time constraints. Discussion: Implementing a perinatal mental health screening program has been positively received. Strategies for sustainability include professional development and the addition of audio versions of the measures. Conclusion: This perinatal mental health screening program is acceptable and a feasible option for health professionals. Health professionals value providing more holistic care and have more open discussion with women about mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e245-e255
Number of pages11
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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

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