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In focus: exploring the stories of migrant women on their journey through pregnancy and parenthood

15 May, 2024

In March 2024, the University of Melbourne hosted the ‘Giving Migrant Mums a Fair Go art exhibition to explore the lens of migrant women and their families on their journey through pregnancy and parenthood. 

An extension of the Giving Migrant Mums a Fair Go study, led by A/Prof Meghan Bohren, the exhibition asked research participants to capture pregnancy, childbirth and the transition into parenthood through their own eyes. 

A/Prof Meghan Bohren is a social scientist, specialising in sexual health and reproductive health and rights, who started in academia at the University of Melbourne in 2018. 

“These journeys take place in their homes, in their hearts, within their families and communities – in Australia and overseas, and within health services alongside their healthcare workers. Many of these stories are intimate, private, and difficult to explain,” Bohren said. 

With over 100 attendees from the community, partner organisations and research collaborators, the event was a successful translation of the study and experiences of research participants, but also invited dialogue to similar narratives from others who attended.

Now, the event is set to go on tour, with the photographs and stories to be displayed in maternity hospitals around Australia; The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne is the first, while King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth will host the exhibit later this year. 

Meanwhile, Meghan and her dedicated team will spend 2024 collating and pouring over their data to write up a piece for further publication and dissemination in this space. 

“We are also looking to expand our partnerships to translate our research findings into action, for example by partnering with health services to improve service delivery for migrant women.” 

The ‘Giving migrant mums a fair go’ project was born from A/Prof Bohren’s passion for integrating the voices of women, families and healthcare workers into the design, measurement, and implementation of public health and clinical interventions to respond to the needs of real people who use them

The project was inspired by epidemiological research that identifies one-third of births in Australia are to migrant women, and migrant women are more likely to have negative birth experiences, difficulties accessing and using maternity care services, and greater risks of poor health outcomes, compared to Australian-born women. 

“In our research, we wanted to unpack what is driving these inequities – if we don’t know why they occur, then we won’t be able to better design health services that provide respectful and woman-centred maternity care.” 

Initiatives and projects, like LEAPP, have the opportunity to complement and support work like the ‘Giving mums a fair go project’ by prioritising and integrating the voices of migrant and refugee women into the guideline recommendation scoping and development, particularly via engagement with consumer panels. 

“I would love to see LEAPP take a strengths-based approach taken to migrant and refugee maternal health by recognising and leveraging the strengths and resources within these communities to improve mental health.

“If we look at how we could achieve this, practically speaking, it means improving accessibility of maternal health services to linguistic and cultural needs of communities or engaging these communities in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs and services. 

“I think especially ensuring that healthcare workers have cultural competencies and can build trust with women and their families is particularly critical for these women and their families to have positive experiences with maternal care services.” 

The Giving Migrant Mums a Fair Go study and exhibition is an exploration of real life people to identify the necessary improvements in maternity services for migrant women through pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood.