Interventions to Improve the Reproductive Health of Undocumented Female Migrants and Refugees in Protracted Situations: A Systematic Review

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2022 Dec 21;10(6):1-15. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-21-00418. Print 2022 Dec 21.


Objective: Limited evidence exists on interventions aimed at enabling reproductive health (RH) services access for undocumented female migrants and refugee women. We aimed to identify intervention characteristics and impacts on RH outcomes among migrants and refugee women in protracted situations.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature review of RH intervention studies that reported on migrants and refugee women in protracted situations. We applied 2 search strategies across 6 databases to identify peer-reviewed articles in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Eligible studies were assessed for content and quality.

Results: Of the 21,453 screened studies, we included 10 (all observational) for final data extraction. Interventions implemented among migrant and refugee women included financial support (n=2), health service delivery structure strengthening (n=4), and educational interventions (n=4). Financial support intervention studies showed that enabling women to obtain RH services for free or at a low cost promoted utilization (e.g., increased use of contraception). Interventions that established or strengthened health service delivery structures and linkage demonstrated increased prenatal visits, decreased maternal mortality, and facilitated access to safe abortion through referral services or access to medical abortion. Educational interventions indicated positive effects on RH knowledge and the importance of involving peers and meeting the unique needs of a mobile population. All intervention studies emphasized the need to accommodate migrant security concerns and cultural and linguistic needs.

Conclusion: Interventions in protracted situations reported positive outcomes when they were migrant or refugee-centered and complementary, culturally acceptable, geographically proximate, and cost-sensitive, as well as recognized the concerns around legality and involved opportunities for peer learning. Free or low-cost RH services and greater availability of basic and emergency maternal and neonatal care showed the most promise but required further community outreach, education, and stronger referral mechanisms. We recommend further participatory implementation research linked to policy and programming.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Contraception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Refugees*
  • Reproductive Health
  • Reproductive Health Services*
  • Transients and Migrants*