Friday, 18 October 2013

Dr Nilaweera: Sri Lankan women need better information on pregnancy

Irosha Nilaweera 125Sri Lankan born women living in Australia are not accessing the optimum amount of healthcare, a study by Dr Irosha Nilaweera has found.

Sri Lankan born women are more likely to rely on support from their husbands and mothers rather than institutionalised health professionals, Dr Nilaweera told a panel of academics at the Alfred Centre on October 15.

“Even though many women struggle with new-born care, only some access formal health care services in Victoria,” she said.

50 mothers participated in her interview-based study. Many of them reported difficulties with settling (62 per cent), feeding (58 per cent) and soothing (42 per cent) their infants.

Despite this however, only 62 per cent relied on their hospitals for information on their pregnancy, with 54 per cent utilising other health professionals.

They were far more likely to use the internet (88 per cent) and friends and family (84 per cent) as a source of educational material. Only about a third attended mother’s group.

That’s not to say, though, that the desire to access better information isn’t there.

40 per cent of women expressed a need for better learning opportunities about parenting, and over a third wished they had better support from trained health staff.

Dr Nilaweera stressed the need for bilingual and culturally competent health professionals to be available, especially when dealing with pregnancy.  She also recommended sensitivity be used when talking to expectant or new mothers, and that health staff be proactive in asking about post partum depression.

There were over 94, 000 Sri Lankan born people living in Australia as of 2011.

Studies have shown the immigrant population is less likely to take full advantage of the health system as those living in Australia, because of language and cultural barriers. Women also have a higher rate of post partum depression, often citing a lack of social support as the reason.

Dr Nilaweera is currently completing 2 years work specialising on women’s health with Prof Jane Fisher at the Jean Hailes Research Unit, before heading back to her home country of Sri Lanka.

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