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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Immigrant and non-immigrant women’s experiences of maternity care: a systematic and comparative review of studies in five countries

Rhonda Small1*, Carolyn Roth2, Manjri Raval1, Touran Shafiei1, Dineke Korfker3, Maureen Heaman4, Christine McCourt5 and Anita Gagnon6

Author Affiliations

1 Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

2 Clinical Education Centre, Keele University, Newcastle Road, Staffordshire ST4 6QG, UK

3 TNO Institute, Wassenaarseweg, Leiden CE 56 2301, Netherlands

4 Faculty of Nursing, Helen Glass Centre for Nursing, 89 Curry Place, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada

5 School of Health Sciences, City University London, Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7QN, UK

6 McGill, Ingram School of Nursing & Department Ob/Gyn, MUHC Prog.Ob/Gyn, 3506 rue University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2A7, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:152  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-152

Published: 29 April 2014



Understanding immigrant women’s experiences of maternity care is critical if receiving country care systems are to respond appropriately to increasing global migration. This systematic review aimed to compare what we know about immigrant and non-immigrant women’s experiences of maternity care.


Medline, CINAHL, Health Star, Embase and PsychInfo were searched for the period 1989–2012. First, we retrieved population-based studies of women’s experiences of maternity care (n = 12). For countries with identified population studies, studies focused specifically on immigrant women’s experiences of care were also retrieved (n = 22). For all included studies, we extracted available data on experiences of care and undertook a descriptive comparison.


What immigrant and non-immigrant women want from maternity care proved similar: safe, high quality, attentive and individualised care, with adequate information and support. Immigrant women were less positive about their care than non-immigrant women. Communication problems and lack of familiarity with care systems impacted negatively on immigrant women’s experiences, as did perceptions of discrimination and care which was not kind or respectful.


Few differences were found in what immigrant and non-immigrant women want from maternity care. The challenge for health systems is to address the barriers immigrant women face by improving communication, increasing women’s understanding of care provision and reducing discrimination.

Maternity care; Immigrant women; Experiences of care; Communication