Asif S, Baugh A, Jones NW The obstetric care of asylum seekers and refugee women in the UK. Obstet Gynaecol. 2015; 17:(4)223-231

Babaei S, Taleghani F Compassionate care challenges and barriers in clinical nurses: a qualitative study. Iranian J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2019; 24:(3)

Bollini P, Pampallona S, Wanner P, Kupelnick B Pregnancy outcome of migrant women and integration policy: a systematic review of the international literature. Soc Sci Med. 2009; 68:(3)452-461

Braun V, Clarke V Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual Res Psychol. 2006; 3:(2)77-101

Coussons-Read ME Effects of prenatal stress on pregnancy and human development: mechanisms and pathways. Obstet Med. 2013; 6:(2)52-57

Dempster H, Hargrave KLondon: Overseas Development Institute & Chatham House; 2017

Dowrick C, Gask L, Edwards S Researching the mental health needs of hard-to-reach groups: managing multiple sources of evidence. BMC Health Serv Res. 2009; 9

Ellul R, McCarthy R, Haith-Cooper M Destitution in pregnancy: forced migrant women's lived experiences. Br J Midwifery. 2020; 28:(11)778-787

Fair F, Raben L, Watson H Migrant women's experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and maternity care in European countries: a systematic review. PloS One. 2020; 15:(2)

Filby A, Robertson W, Afonso E A service evaluation of a specialist migrant maternity service from the user's perspective. Br J Midwifery. 2020; 28:(9)652-659

Frank GD, Fox D, Njue C, Dawson A The maternity experiences of women seeking asylum in high-income countries: a meta-ethnography. Women Birth. 2021; 34:(6)531-539

Goodwin-Gill GS The international law of refugee protection. In: Fiddian-Qasmiyeh E, Loescher G, Long K, Sigona N Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2014

Haith-Cooper M, McCarthy R Striving for excellence in maternity care: the maternity stream of the city of sanctuary. Br J Midwifery. 2015; 23:(9)648-652

Hawkins MM, Schmitt ME, Adebayo CT Promoting the health of refugee women: a scoping literature review incorporating the social ecological model. Int J Equity Health. 2021; 20:(1)1-10

Hatherall B, Morris J, Jamal F Timing of the initiation of antenatal care: an exploratory qualitative study of women and service providers in East London. Midwifery. 2016; 36:1-7

Heaton JLondon: SAGE; 2004

Heslehurst N, Brown H, Pemu A, Coleman H, Rankin J Perinatal health outcomes and care among asylum seekers and refugees: a systematic review of systematic reviews. BMC Med. 2018; 16:(1)1-25

Higginbottom GMA, Evans C, Morgan M, Bharj KK, Eldridge J, Hussain B Experience of and access to maternity care in the UK by immigrant women: a narrative synthesis systematic review. BMJ Open. 2019; 9:(12)

Johnston MP Secondary data analysis: a method of which the time has come. Qual Quant Methods Libraries. 2017; 3:(3)619-626

Karlström A, Nystedt A, Hildingsson I The meaning of a very positive birth experience: focus groups discussions with women. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2015; 15:(1)1-8

Kalt A, Hossain M, Kiss L, Zimmerman C Asylum seekers, violence and health: a systematic review of research in high-income host countries. Am J Pub Health. 2013; 103:(3)e30-e42

Kingsbury DM, Chatfield SL A qualitative metasynthesis of published research exploring the pregnancy and resettlement experience among refugee women. Qual Report. 2019; 24:(2)242-257

Knight M, Tuffnell D A view from the UK: the UK and Ireland confidential enquiry into maternal deaths and morbidity. Clinical Obstet Gynecol. 2018b; 61:(2)347-358

Lephard E, Haith-Cooper M Pregnant and seeking asylum: exploring women's experiences ‘from booking to baby’. Br J Midwifery. 2016; 24:(2)130-136

Lindahl V, Pearson JL, Colpe L Prevalence of suicidality during pregnancy and the postpartum. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2005; 8:(2)77-87

McKnight P, Goodwin L, Kenyon S A systematic review of asylum-seeking women's views and experiences of UK maternity care. Midwifery. 2019; 77:16-23

McLeish J Maternity experiences of asylum seekers in England. Br J Midwifery. 2005; 13:(12)782-785

Mulvey G When policy creates politics: the problematizing of immigration and the consequences for refugee integration in the UK. J Refugee Studies. 2010; 23:(4)437-462

London: NICE; 2010

National maternity review.London: NHS England; 2016

Origlia Ikhilor P, Hasenberg G, Kurth E, Asefaw F, Pehlke-Milde J, Cignacco E Communication barriers in maternity care of allophone migrants: experiences of women, healthcare professionals, and intercultural interpreters. J Adv Nurs. 2019; 75:(10)2200-2210

Polit D, Beck CPhiladelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2020

Rönnerhag M, Severinsson E, Haruna M, Berggren I Qualitative study of women's experiences of safe childbirth in maternity care. Nurs Health Sci. 2018; 20:(3)331-337

2016. (accessed 3 August 2022)

Simpson M, Catling C Understanding psychological traumatic birth experiences: a literature review. Women Birth. 2016; 29:(3)203-207

Small R, Roth C, Raval M Immigrant and non-immigrant women's experiences of maternity care: a systematic and comparative review of studies in five countries. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014; 14:(1)1-17

Tobin C, Murphy-Lawless J, Beck CT Childbirth in exile: asylum seeking women's experience of childbirth in Ireland. Midwifery. 2014; 30:(7)831-838

Vermeir P, Vandijck D, Degroote S Communication in healthcare: a narrative review of the literature and practical recommendations. Int J Clin Pract. 2015; 69:(11)1257-1267

Vincent C, Amalberti R Safer healthcare: strategies for the real world. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016; 20:(1)1-21

White Ribbon Alliance. 2011. (accessed 12 March 2022)

White Ribbon Alliance. 2018. (accessed 5 August 2022)

Wike R, Stokes B, Simmons KWashington DC: Pew Research Center; 2016

Wilcock C Hostile immigration policy and the limits of sanctuary as resistance. Social Inclusion. 2019; 7:(4)141-151

Winn A, Hetherington E, Tough S Caring for pregnant refugee women in a turbulent policy landscape: perspectives of health care professionals in Calgary, Alberta. Int J Equity Health. 2018; 17:(1)1-14

World Health Organization. 2018. (accessed 10 January 2022)

What refugee women want from maternity care: a qualitative study

02 September 2022
Volume 30 · Issue 9



For refugee women, pregnancy and early motherhood can exacerbate poor underlying health, poverty, and deprivation. Despite the wealth of research exploring the experiences of pregnant refugee women, maternity care providers remain unprepared for their unique needs. The aim of this study was to ask what refugee women require from maternity care, reduce adverse risks, and improve maternity care experiences


Secondary analysis of focus group data from refugee women as part of the ‘What women want’ White Ribbon Alliance campaign.


Three key themes emerged: feeling safe in the maternity system and in their communities; fair and equal access and treatment in maternity care and the asylum system: building a future in the UK.


Midwives need additional training and education to understand the wider issues of the negative discourse around migration and being an asylum seeker and use this knowledge in practice when caring for women to help them feel safe.

The number of female refugees and asylum seekers around the world continues to increase (Kingsbury and Chatfield, 2019) and Home Office statistics suggest that around 20–25% of all UK asylum applications are for women of childbearing age (15–49 years), as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2018). This number is likely to increase with the establishment of the Afghan resettlement programme with up to 20 000 people promised to be resettled over the next 5 years in the UK alone (, 2022). Pregnant women seeking asylum and refugee women are identified as a vulnerable group. They have a disproportionately increased risk of adverse maternal outcomes, including higher risk of caesarean section, and neonatal outcomes, such as stillbirth (Bollini et al, 2009; Knight et al, 2018a) as a result of poor underlying health and more complex pregnancies (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2010; McKnight et al, 2019). For refugee and asylum-seeking women, accessing excellent, respectful maternity care is vital to ensure that their specific needs are met and reduce the risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month