Somali women's experience of childbirth in the UK: Perspectives from Somali health workers

Midwifery. 2009 Apr;25(2):181-6. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2007.02.002. Epub 2007 Jun 27.


Objective: to conduct a qualitative study of perceptions of experiences of childbirth from Somali health workers in the UK.

Design & setting: in depth narrative interviews at community centres and places of work in London.

Participants: eight Somali women aged between 23 and 57 years. The interviewees worked within the health sector in the UK and/or as nurses or gynaecologists in Somalia. Six of the women had also given birth in the UK.

Key findings: mismanagement of care of female circumcision provided during pregnancy and labour leads to problems at birth for many Somali women. The importance of Somalia's oral culture is not recognised when addressing communication barriers and continuity of care is lacking but important. Somali women also felt that midwives held stereotyped and negative attitudes towards them. Existing pressures as a consequence of migration were compounded by these experiences of childbirth in the UK.

Key conclusions: issues concerning female circumcision, verbal communication, cultural aspects of care and pressures that were a consequence of migration play a part in the experience of childbirth in the UK for Somali women.

Implications for practice: midwives need to possess the necessary clinical knowledge and skills to deal with women who have been circumcised and the issue needs to be raised early in the pregnancy. Attention needs to be paid to ensure continuity of care, maximising verbal communications and challenging stereotypical views of Somali women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric / ethnology*
  • Maternal Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Maternal Welfare / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Patient Satisfaction / ethnology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / nursing
  • Research Design
  • Somalia / ethnology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Women's Health