Objective: Little is known about immigrant mothers’ experiences of life with a new baby, apart from studies on maternal depression. Our objective was to compare the post-childbirth experiences of Australian-born and immigrant mothers from non-English speaking countries.
Methods: A postal survey of recent mothers at six months postpartum in Victoria (August 2000 to February 2002), enabled comparison of experiences of life with a new baby for two groups of immigrant women: those born overseas in non-English-speaking countries who reported speaking English very well (n=460); and those born overseas in non-English-speaking countries who reported speaking English less than very well (n=184) and Australian-born women (n=9,796).
Results: Immigrant women were more likely than Australian-born women to be breastfeeding at six months and were equally confident in caring for their baby and talking to health providers. No differences were found in anxiety or relationship problems with partners. However, compared with Australian-born women, immigrant mothers less proficient in English did have a higher prevalence of depression (28.8% vs 15%) and were more likely to report wanting more practical (65.2% vs 55.4%) and emotional (65.2% vs 44.1%) support. They were more likely to have no ‘time out’ from baby care (47% vs 28%) and to report feeling lonely and isolated (39% vs 17%).
Conclusion and implications: Immigrant mothers less proficient in English appear to face significant additional challenges post-childbirth. Greater awareness of these challenges may help to improve the responsiveness of health and support services for women after birth.