[Press & Publications] Debunking the stereotypes: A new look at pregnancy and childbirth needs among South Asian women

February 2000

No 34

Researchers at the University of Leicester have uncovered new evidence that contradicts commonly held views on managing pregnancy and childbirth among some ethnic minority women in the UK.

In her new book entitled 'Race' and Childbirth, Dr Savita Katbamna of the Nuffield Community Care Studies Unit says that the National Health Service has begun to reflect the multicultural nature of British society in the services it provides. However, she feels that healthcare provision still falls short of meeting the needs of child-bearing women in the South Asian community.

Her research suggests there is still a lack of understanding that women from different socio-economic, cultural and religious backgrounds have different healthcare needs.

She feels that British institutions are often guilty of over generalisation in regard to representing ethnic communities and lack real understanding of the diversity of values within a wider ethnic community.

One such issue is that of Southern Asian women and childbirth.

Savita Katbamna, explains: "Although South Asian women have been the subject of previous research, there has been a tendency to treat them as if they were a homogeneous group. Secondly, they are viewed as "problematic" by service providers.

"My research highlights the enormous diversity that exists between and within South Asian women and provides insights into the experiences of managing and negotiating care during pregnancy and childbirth. The research draws on the experiences of Gujarati and Bangladeshi women living in two London health districts.

"The superficial homogeneity masks many differences in cultural and religious beliefs, patterns of migration and settlement in Britain, and in the socio-economic and educational status.

"The consequences of not recognising these differences encourages stereotypes and an assumption that all women require the same type of maternity care. For example, one of the popular myths about South Asian women is that they all live within extended families and can rely on their relatives for support. This is not the case."

In Britain the hospitalisation and medicalisation of childbirth have become the norm. However, Dr Katbamna believes that for women who have come from less industrialised countries, traditional methods are used alongside the more western approaches.

She has found that, for many British South Asian women, traditional methods remain an important aspect of managing childbirth, with the result that many of them have had to find ways of negotiating between the models of care to suit their personal circumstances.

Her recently published book, 'Race' and Childbirth, explores these issues more fully in the context of Healthcare professionals such as GPs, midwives and medical social workers. 'Race' and Childbirth is published by the Open University Press under the 'Race', Health and Social Care Series, edited by Waqar I.U. Ahmad and Charles Husband.

Note to editors: Dr Savita Katbamna, Nuffield Community Care Studies Unit, can be contacted on telephone 0116 252 5439, facsimile 0116 252 5423, email sk41@le.ac.uk The Nuffield Community Care Studies Unit is a division of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Leicester.

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: 29 February 2000 14:54
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