Worse outcomes during childbirth for Australia’s migrant and refugee women, experts say – ABC News
Apart from it being incredibly painful, what Liz remembers most about her labour is not being heard by the doctors.
The 36-year-old, who has asked her real name to be withheld, doesn’t speak English.
But there was no translator present in the delivery room.
The language barrier, she says, made the birth a traumatic experience.
Liz said she thought she consented to anti-inflammatory medicine during the birth of her son, but she was instead given Syntocinon — a synthetic oxytocin drug used to induce labour in women.
“I agreed they [could] give me anti-inflammatory drugs, but I did not agree … that they could add oxytocin,” she said.
When Liz recalls her delivery story through a translator, she remembers it being “very fast” and incredibly painful.
Liz, who has a background in medicine and dentistry, migrated from China to Australia in 2019 and gave birth to her son in January 2020.
Liz said she was aware decisions she had made were not being followed in the delivery room, but could not communicate it to the 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 were born outside of Australia.
Women who were born in India made up more than 5 per cent of the cohort, and women born in China came in at 3 per cent.
Non-English speaking women struggle to be heard
Birth for Humankind is a Melbourne based NGO that pairs women from migrant, refugee, or low socio-economic backgrounds with a volunteer doula to support them throughout their pregnancy and antenatal appointments.
During Liz’s pregnancy, she was supported by Laura Lee Berlingieri, a certified doula who has been volunteering for the organisation for over five years.
Ms Berlingieri attended Liz’s antenatal appointments as well as supporting her during her birth.
But because there was no translator present in the delivery room, Ms Berlingieri, who does not speak Mandarin, had to use a translator app to communicate with Liz and the medical team.
Ms Berlingieri said the entire situation left both her and Liz angry and traumatised.
“Liz is a very intelligent woman,” Ms Berlingieri said.
“She’s a medical professional herself, so she had a very clear idea of what she was willing to consent to and what she was not willing to consent to, but she was denied the opportunity because no one was able to get an interpreter.”
Ms Berlingieri said in her years working both privately and with the NGO, she had witnessed many migrant and non-English speaking women struggled to communicate and understand information even before the birth.
More support needed before delivery
Melbourne-based specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist Nisha Khot, who has worked across multiple hospitals in Victoria, is very familiar with how to navigate caring for migrant and non-English speaking women.
Dr Khot said all the available data on women and births in Australia highlighted the lower birth outcomes for migrant women.
“One of the things that all of these reports always include is the mother’s country of birth,” she said.
“And so from that data, we can tell that women who are born outside Australia have worse outcomes in terms of things like perinatal mortality.”
While Dr Khot said more education and funding was always necessary, she said there were steps hospitals could take now to provide the best and most culturally appropriate care.
She believes that more work needs to be done to provide women with support prior to the birth during the antenatal visits and that more hospitals need to utilise their multicultural practitioners.
“Healthcare organisations have the most wonderful, multicultural staff within them,” Dr Knot said.
“And one of the easiest things to do is at the start of the day, wherever you work in whichever ward in whichever department, have a list on the wall of all your staff who speak all the various languages.
“So that when there is an emergency and somebody comes in, and you need to speak that language, you can just look at the board.”
This content was originally published here.