Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood: a meta-synthesis of the lived experiences of immigrant women

Midwifery. 2014 Jun;30(6):575-84. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2014.03.005. Epub 2014 Mar 12.


Introduction: pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are natural processes that bring joy to individual women and families. However, for many migrant women, becoming a mother while attempting to settle in a new country where the culture is different, can be a challenge for them.

Aim: to identify and synthesise qualitative research studies that explore the perceptions of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, and lived experiences of migrant women in their new home country.

Methods: the seven steps of Noblit and Hare׳s meta-ethnography was used to conduct the meta-synthesis. Searches for literature of qualitative studies were conducted in May and June 2013 using PubMed, CINAHL, Google Scholar and La Trobe University databases. Studies published in English addressing pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood experiences of women from immigrant backgrounds met the inclusion criteria.

Findings: 15 studies published between 2003 and 2013 related to the pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood experiences for women from migrant backgrounds were eligible for the meta-synthesis. Four major themes were identified as common in all the qualitative studies: expectations of pregnancy and childbirth; experiences of motherhood; encountering confusion and conflict with beliefs; and dealing with migration challenges.

Conclusions: migrant women׳s pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood experiences are influenced by societal and cultural values, and they vary depending on the adjustment process in the new home country. The provision of culturally sensitive maternal health services enhances positive outcomes of a healthy mother and healthy infant. Supportive structures that address the issue of language and cultural barriers seem to promote antenatal clinic attendance, prevent pregnancy and childbirth complications, and enhance their positive motherhood experiences.

Implications: women from immigrant backgrounds have the right to receive adequate and sensitive health care during the childbearing and childrearing times regardless of their migrant status.

Keywords: Childbirth; Metasynthesis; Migrant women; Motherhood.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Child Health Services / standards*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • South Africa / ethnology