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Implementing Innovative Evidence-Based Perinatal Mental Health Screening for Women of Refugee Background


Implementing Innovative Evidence-Based Perinatal Mental Health Screening for Women of Refugee Background

Suzanne M Willey et al. Women Birth.


Problem: National guidelines recommend repeated screening for depression and anxiety for all women in the perinatal period. Routine screening in pregnancy is limited due to service, community and individual barriers.

Background: Perinatal depression and perinatal anxiety affect up to 20% of all women. Women of refugee background are at even greater risk for perinatal mental health conditions due to refugee experiences and resettlement stressors.

Aim: To evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a perinatal mental health screening program for women of refugee background from the perspective of health professionals.

Methods: A mixed methods design guided by the Normalization Process Theory was used. Data were collected at a dedicated refugee antenatal clinic in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. An online survey (n=38), focus groups (n=2; 13 participants) and semi-structured interviews (n=8; 11 participants) with health professionals were conducted.

Findings: Under the four constructs of the Normalization Process Theory, health professionals reported improvements in identifying and referring women with mental health issues, more open and in-depth conversations with women about mental health and valued using an evidenced-based measure. Key issues included professional development, language barriers and time constraints.

Discussion: Implementing a perinatal mental health screening program has been positively received. Strategies for sustainability include professional development and the addition of audio versions of the measures.

Conclusion: This perinatal mental health screening program is acceptable and a feasible option for health professionals. Health professionals value providing more holistic care and have more open discussion with women about mental health.

Keywords: Evaluation; Perinatal mental health; Refugee and asylum seeker; Screening; Women.

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