Perinatal psychosocial assessment of women of refugee background

Gillian Snow, Glenn A. Melvin, Jacqueline A. Boyle, Melanie Gibson-Helm, Christine E. East, Jacqueline McBride, Kylie M. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Women of refugee background may be particularly vulnerable to perinatal mental illness, possibly due to increased exposure to psychosocial stressors associated with their forced migration and post-resettlement adjustment. Aim: This study aimed to compare psychosocial risk factors reported by women of refugee background receiving maternity services at a public hospital, to those reported by Australian-born women in the same hospital. It further aimed to examine the referrals offered, and accepted, by the women of refugee background reporting psychosocial risk factors for perinatal mental illness. Methods: A retrospective hospital record review was conducted to compare the antenatal and postnatal psychosocial risk factors of 100 women of refugee background and 100 Australian-born women who gave birth at a public hospital in Victoria between 1 July 2015 and 30 April 2016, and who had completed the Maternity Psychosocial Needs Assessment. Findings: Women of refugee background were more likely than Australian-born women to report financial concerns and low social support at antenatal assessment, but were less likely to report prior mental health problems than Australian-born women at either assessment point. Both groups reported low rates of family violence compared to published prevalence rates. Of the women of refugee background assessed antenatally, 23% were offered referrals, with 52% take-up. Postnatally, 11.2% were offered referrals, with 93% take-up. Discussion/conclusion: This study showed elevated rates of psychosocial risk factors among women of refugee background, however, possible under-reporting of mental health problems and family violence raises questions regarding how to assess psychosocial risk factors with different cultural groups. Lower antenatal referral take-up suggests barriers to acceptance of referrals may exist during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalWomen and Birth
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Jun 2020


  • Antenatal mental health
  • Perinatal mental illness
  • Perinatal psychosocial assessment
  • Postnatal mental health
  • Referrals
  • Refugee

Cite this