Worse childbirth outcomes for Australian migrant and refugee women, experts say



Besides being incredibly painful, what Liz remembers most about her job goes unrecognized by doctors.

The 36-year-old, who has requested that her real name not be released, does not speak English.

But no translator was present in the delivery room.

The language barrier, she says, made childbirth a traumatic experience.

Liz said she thought she consented to anti-inflammatory drugs when her son was born, but instead received Syntocinon, a synthetic oxytocin drug used to induce labor in women. women.

When Liz recalls her childbirth story through a translator, she remembers it was “very quick” and incredibly painful.

Liz remembers knowing that her wishes weren’t being honored, but she was unable to say why.(ABC News)

Liz, who has a background in medicine and dentistry, emigrated from China to Australia in 2019 and gave birth to her son in January 2020.

Liz said she was aware that the decisions she made weren’t followed in the delivery room, but she couldn’t communicate them to doctors.

According to the latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Women and Babies report, one in three women who gave birth in 2019 was born outside of Australia.

Women born in India made up more than 5% of the cohort and women born in China 3%.

Non-English speaking women find it difficult to be heard

A woman with graying, curly hair sits across from a young woman in a living room while a child plays on the floor.
Doula Laura Lee Berlingieri says she had to use a translator app to convey Liz’s choices to the doctors.(ABC News: Mala Darmadi)

Birth for Humankind is a Melbourne-based NGO that pairs migrant, refugee and disadvantaged women from socio-economic backgrounds with a volunteer doula to support them throughout their pregnancy and prenatal appointments.

During Liz’s pregnancy, she was supported by Laura Lee Berlingieri, a certified doula who has volunteered with the organization for over five years.

Ms. Berlingieri attended Liz’s prenatal appointments and supported her during her delivery.

But since there was no translator present in the delivery room, Ms Berlingieri, who does not speak Mandarin, had to use a translation app to communicate with Liz and the medical team.

Ms Berlingieri said the whole situation had left her and Liz angry and traumatized.

“Liz is a very intelligent woman,” Ms. Berlingieri said.

Ms Berlingieri said that during her years of working both privately and with the NGO, she had seen many migrant and non-English speaking women struggling to communicate and understand information even before birth.

More support needed before delivery

Melbourne-based obstetrician and specialist gynecologist Nisha Khot who has worked in several hospitals in Victoria knows very well how to care for migrant and non-English speaking women.

Dr Khot said all available data on women and births in Australia highlighted lower birth outcomes for migrant women.

“One of the things all of these reports always include is the mother’s country of birth,” she said.

While Dr Khot said more education and funding was still needed, she said hospitals could take action now to provide the best and most culturally appropriate care.

She believes more work needs to be done to provide women with pre-birth support during antenatal visits and that more hospitals need to use their multicultural practitioners.

“Healthcare organizations have the most wonderful and multicultural staff within them,” said Dr Knot.

“And one of the easiest things to do is at the start of the day, wherever you work in any department in any department, have a list on the wall of all your staff who speak all the talk. different languages.

“So when there’s an emergency and someone comes in and you have to speak that language, you can just look at the board. “



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