A systematic review of ethnic minority women's experiences of perinatal mental health conditions and services in Europe

PLoS One. 2019 Jan 29;14(1):e0210587. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210587. eCollection 2019.


Background: Women from ethnic minority groups are at greater risk of developing mental health problems. Poor perinatal mental health impacts on maternal morbidity and mortality and can have a devastating impact on child and family wellbeing. It is important to ensure that services are designed to meet the unique needs of women from diverse backgrounds.

Aim: The aim of the review was to explore ethnic minority women's experiences of perinatal mental ill health, help-seeking and perinatal mental health services in Europe.

Data sources: Searches included CINAHL, Maternity and Infant Care, MEDLINE and PsycINFO with no language or date restrictions. Additional literature was identified by searching reference lists of relevant studies.

Design: This was a mixed method systematic review. Study selection, appraisal and data extraction were conducted by two researchers independently. A convergent approach was adopted for the analysis and the data were synthesised thematically.

Results: The 15 eligible studies included women from a range of minority ethnic backgrounds and were all undertaken in the United Kingdom (UK). Seven overarching themes were identified; awareness and beliefs about mental health, isolation and seeking support, influence of culture, symptoms and coping strategies, accessing mental health services, experiences of mental health services and what women want.

Conclusion: Lack of awareness about mental ill health, cultural expectations, ongoing stigma, culturally insensitive and fragmented health services and interactions with culturally incompetent and dismissive health providers all impact on ethnic minority women's ability to receive adequate perinatal mental health support in the UK. Future research should focus on in-depth exploration of the experiences of these women across multiple European settings and interventions to reduce health inequalities among vulnerable mothers and families affected by perinatal mental ill health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Culture
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Mental Health*
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Perinatal Care*
  • Social Support

Grant support

All authors received funding for this study from Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust. Grant number Aa4344482. https://shsc.nhs.uk/. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.