Antenatal Depression in Immigrant Women: A Culturally Sensitive Prevention Program in Geneva (Switzerland)

Author(s): Betty GOGUIKIAN RATCLIFF, Anna SHARAPOVA, Théogène-Octave GAKUBA, and Fabienne BOREL


Introduction: Immigrant women in developed countries experience worse pregnancy outcomes than native women and are at high risk for antenatal depression and anxiety. Stresses related to the immigration and lack of cultural support affect emotional well-being, a situation calling for a response from primary caregivers and healthcare policies.

Main Body: The implementation, in Geneva, Switzerland, of a multicultural birth preparation program that integrates transcultural and community-oriented approaches is reported. The study conducted among women attending the program examined psychosocial risk factors for antenatal depression and pregnancy outcomes. The community sample included 209 women referred to birth preparation classes between 2006 and 2013. Sociodemographic profiles, antenatal depression, and pregnancy outcomes of women with precarious and non-precarious legal status were compared.

Discussion: More than half of the women had been living in Switzerland for less than 5 years, had precarious legal status, and presented diverse educational backgrounds. Women with precarious status presented more depressive symptoms than women with non-precarious status; 35 % of women presented either mild or serious complications, with no differences between the two groups, but women with several risk factors experienced more complications during the perinatal period.

Implications: These findings highlight the need for multidimensional targeted prevention programs to address psychosocial, cultural, and obstetric issues simultaneously. Improving communication and allowing immigrant women to preserve some of their traditions might be effective measures in enhancing their mental well-being. Migration indicators, such as length of time in the country, language fluency, legal status, ethnicity, should be considered as part of basic perinatal health information.

Key words: Immigrant women, Antenatal depression, Pregnancy outcomes, Psychosocial risk factors

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