Maternal health care for newcomers exceeds expectations

April 10, 2014 by Kate Toogood

Defying all expectations, new research from the University of Alberta shows that newcomer women are very satisfied with the maternal care they receive in Canada's Prairie provinces.

A study led by Zubia Mumtaz, assistant professor in the School of Public Health, revealed that newcomer women were just as able to navigate the health-care system and received the same information regarding what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth as Canadian-born women. In addition, they were equally likely to have timely prenatal visits and contact with nurses following birth. The research was published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

"We were very surprised," says Mumtaz. "We expected that and language barriers would present far more challenges to the ability of newcomers to receive adequate care. Overall, that is simply not the case."

In the study, women who arrived in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba after 1996 participated in structured telephone interviews. Their answers were then compared with those of Canadian-born women who participated in the same interviews. Although the newcomer women had lower incomes than the Canadian-born women, they were more likely to be university graduates.

Despite the good news, Mumtaz says there's still room for improvement. The research also revealed that newcomer women were significantly more likely to have a or an assisted birth.

"It's difficult to say why C-section rates are higher in newcomer groups," says Mumtaz. "However, it could be because of language issues where a physician wasn't able to adequately communicate regarding options, so they made an executive decision. It is also possible that newcomers are more reticent to challenge provider opinions or practices."

Newcomer women were also less satisfied with information provided about infant feeding and emotional and physical changes during pregnancy. According to Mumtaz, this could be because of the importance of friend and family relationships.

"In many cultures, friends and family are important and trusted sources of information, but are less likely to be easily available to newcomer women," she says. "It's also possible that what we're seeing isn't a lack of information—it's a lack of willingness or a reluctance to accept practices that don't fit in with their cultural beliefs."

The news is encouraging for maternal health-care providers, but Mumtaz says there are still important lessons to be learned.

"As one can expect, cultural practices and beliefs still play a crucial role in . Be aware of cultural competencies and the barriers imposed by language—these clearly influence the care these women receive.

"If we are to provide a new home for these women, we must acknowledge their cultural and traditional beliefs, while treating them as we would any other Canadian."

Explore further: Falling short of the mark on maternal health in Pakistan

More information: The study is available online:

Related Stories

Falling short of the mark on maternal health in Pakistan

January 31, 2014

The clock is ticking on the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals as the 2015 deadline approaches. For University of Alberta researcher Zubia Mumtaz, that raises a lot of questions about her area of research—maternal ...

Albertans support perinatal mental health screening

April 2, 2014

After struggling with anxiety and depression since her teens, Lana Berry hit bottom at age 26. Divorced, unemployed and back living with her parents, she found herself in a dark place—"as sick as I'd ever been."

Recommended for you

Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health

April 27, 2017

Johns Hopkins researchers report that an analysis of survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults for nearly 20 years suggests a "synergistic" link between exercise and good vitamin D levels in ...

'Diet' products can make you fat, study shows

April 25, 2017

High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden "diet" foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.