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A mixed-methods survey of perinatal mental health for Sri Lankan women in the UK

02 April 2023
Volume 31 · Issue 4



The prevalence of perinatal mental health issues is significantly higher among South Asian women in the UK. However, little attention has been given to examine the views and opinions of sub-groups of South Asians in the UK. Although the prevalence of perinatal mental health issues is much higher in Sri Lanka, so far, no studies have focused on Sri Lankan women in the UK. This study's aim was to examine the views and opinions of Sri Lankan women living in the UK about perinatal mental health.


A convergent mixed-method online survey was administered in English and Sinhalese. A total of 34 Sri Lankan women living in the UK, from their baby's conception to 24 months postpartum, were recruited. Qualitative responses were interpreted using thematic analysis, supported by quantitative data.


The participants reported that they maintained good perinatal mental health with the support of their partner and family. Midwives were most involved in inquiring about and providing information on perinatal mental health. Social stigma was a dominant barrier to accessing support.


Midwives need to ensure that perinatal mental health is discussed sensitively with Sri Lankan women. Future quantitative research needs to examine if existing tools are culturally sensitive and qualitative research should include women's partners and families to explore how best to care for this population.

Mental health conditions are the most prevalent disorder among women in the perinatal period, and are a global issue (Fellmeth et al, 2017). Perinatal mental health issues increase morbidity and are the major causes of direct maternal deaths in the UK (Watson et al, 2019; Knight, 2022). The phenomenon adversely effects families and the psychosocial development of offspring, leading to a socio-economic cost on British society of £8.1 billion each year (Bauer et al, 2022).

South Asian women in the UK have elevated risks of developing perinatal mental health issues (Smith et al, 2019) and this has been linked to language barriers, social stigma, isolation, differences in cultural values and poor knowledge and education on perinatal mental health issues (Smith et al, 2019). The higher birth rate among South Asian women compared to the indigenous population and a low female employment rate compared to other ethnicities in the UK have also contributed to higher levels of perinatal mental health issues (Masood et al, 2015).

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