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Midwifery. 1998 Mar;14(1):4-9.

Recent immigration and the misery of motherhood: a discussion of pertinent issues.

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  • 1University of Technology, Sydney. L.Barclay@unsw.edu.au


In this paper it is assumed that the high rates of misery experienced by most new mothers in contemporary Western society are socially and culturally induced. Women from non-English-speaking backgrounds (NESB) recuperate from the stress of birth, often further complicated by morbidity from intervention, frequently alone and without practical household help. They often embark on their new mothering role with little support or guidance. In a Western society which markets a romanticized Anglo image of motherhood, where happy, contented, smiling babies and glamorous mothers appear as the norm, it is not surprising that women from NESB find becoming a mother in Australia difficult. Their difficulties are exacerbated as they frequently come from cultures where women are nurtured, valued and supported at this time in their lives. These women are often socially isolated in their new country, within an alien health system and separated from their normal birth and postpartum practices. Their misery can only be imagined, as mostly it is hidden and suffered alone. Providing a diagnosis of depression in women who are unhappy, but not clinically depressed, is likely to be even less helpful and more damaging for NESB women than for Anglo-Australian women. A diagnosis of depression excuses Western society for accepting responsibility for alleviating the isolation of new mothers by labelling them as 'sick'.

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