A qualitative exploration of the emotional wellbeing and support needs of new mothers from Afghanistan living in Melbourne, Australia

Alana Russo, Belinda Lewis, Andrew Joyce, Belinda Crockett, Stanley Luchters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The Afghan community is a priority population for many health and social services within the southeast region of Melbourne, which is home to the largest population of Afghanistan-born people within the state of Victoria. The majority of Afghan women arriving in Australia are of childbearing age, and evidence suggests that they are at increased risk of emotional challenges following birth as a result of the refugee and migration experience. This research aimed to explored the experiences of Afghan women living in Melbourne throughout pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood, and gain insight into the aspects of their experiences that they perceive as positively and negatively impacting their emotional wellbeing. Methods: This qualitative study collected data through two focus group discussions (conducted in Dari) and 10 in-depth interviews (conducted in Dari or English). Thirty-eight Afghanistan-born women aged 18 years and older, who recently migrated to Australia and have at least one Australian-born child, were purposively selected to participate. A trained bicultural worker assisted in recruitment, data collection and translation. Thematic analysis was performed, and findings were confirmed with a subgroup of participants prior to being included within reporting. Results: Participants consistently discussed experiencing emotional challenges following birth, identifying symptoms commonly associated with postnatal depression. Women largely attributed this emotional state to separation from family and culture, leading to loneliness, isolation, and disconnection. Participants expressed resistance towards professional support due to cultural stigma associated with mental illness. Partner support was seen to be positive but difficult to negotiate. Religion, strong relationship with child, forming friendships, education, and utilising childcare were identified as positive influences on the emotional wellbeing of women. Conclusions: This study highlighted social and cultural factors contributing towards the emotional wellbeing of Afghan mothers. Findings confirm the need for innovative community-based models to support the mental health of Afghan women. This is particularly pertinent given the identified resistance towards discussing emotional wellbeing with healthcare professionals. Further research and investment is required in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number197
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


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