'They're more like ordinary stroppy British women': attitudes and expectations of maternity care professionals to UK-born ethnic minority women

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2008 Oct;13(4):195-201. doi: 10.1258/jhsrp.2008.007153.


Objective: To explore the attitudes and expectations of maternity care professionals to UK-born ethnic minority mothers.

Methods: Qualitative in-depth interviews with 30 professionals from eight NHS maternity units in England that provide services for large proportions of women of black Caribbean, black African, Indian, Pakistani and Irish descent.

Results: All the professionals reported providing care to both UK-born and migrant mothers from ethnic minorities. Most of them felt that they could differentiate between UK-born and migrant mothers based mainly on language fluency and accent. 'Westernized dress' and 'freedom' were also cited as indicators. Overall, professionals found it easier to provide services to UK-born mothers and felt that their needs were more like those of white English mothers than those of migrant mothers. UK-born mothers were generally thought to be assertive and expressive, and in control of care-related decision-making whereas some South Asian Muslim women were thought to be constrained by family influences. Preconceived ideas about ethnic minority mothers' tolerance of pain in labour, use of pharmacological pain relief measures and mode of delivery were recurring themes. Women's education and social class were felt to be major influences on the uptake of maternity care, regardless of ethnicity.

Conclusions: Professionals appeared to equate the needs of UK-born ethnic minority women with those of white English women. Overall, this has positive implications for care provision. Despite this, specific behavioural expectations and unconscious stereotypical views were evident and have the potential to affect clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology*
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Pregnancy
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • State Medicine