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The maternal mental health of migrant women

The maternal mental health and wellbeing of migrant women is an area which requires a much stronger public focus. In the UK, over the past thirty years, female migrants have originated from a far more diverse range of countries. Higher fertility rates among migrant women (see ONS, 2012) indicate that they will become one of the main users of maternity services. This paper has three main objectives. Firstly, it explores female migration to the UK, in order to develop an understanding of the level and types of diversity. Secondly, it uses existing evidence to investigate why there is low take-up of maternal mental related services by migrant women. Thirdly, it considers how maternal mental health care providers can develop services which meet the needs of migrant women.

Key messages:

  • Pregnant and early postnatal migrant women are a heterogeneous and far more diverse population group than has previously been experienced.
  • Migrant women experiencing maternal mental health related illnesses face practical barriers and cultural factors which may prevent them from seeking help.
  • Maternal mental health related services tend to be focused on helping migrant women to overcome practical barriers, in particular, language difficulties, at the risk of obscuring cultural factors and attitudes to mental health.
  • Further research is urgently needed to acquire accurate data on the needs of the newer migrant population which can then inform the development of appropriate services as well as culturally competent care.
  • Maternal mental health related practitioners will need to acquire new knowledge and skills in order to deliver effective services to a superdiverse cohort of pregnant and early postnatal migrant women.


  • Migrant women, new migration and super-diversity
  • Feminisation of new migration
  • Migrant women and super-diversity
  • Migrant women and maternal mental health inequalities
  • Cultural factors
  • Practical barriers
  • Delivering mental health services in an age of super-diversity: Facing the challenges

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Author(s): Latif, Zahira;
Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 31
Publisher: Race Equality Foundation
Publication date: March 2014