The perceptions and practices of Thai health professionals providing maternity care for migrant Burmese women: An ethnographic study



      Across the globe, many women including economic and humanitarian migrants receive inadequate antenatal care. Understanding the difficulties that migrant women encounter when accessing maternity care, including the approach of health professionals, is necessary because inadequate care is associated with increasing rates of morbidity and mortality. There are very few studies of migrant women’s access to and experience of maternity services when they have migrated from a low- to a middle-income country.


      To examine the perceptions and practices of Thai health professionals providing maternity care for migrant Burmese women, and to describe women’s experiences of their encounters with health professionals providing maternity care in Ranong Province in southern Thailand.


      Ethnography informed the study design. Individual interviews were conducted with 13 healthcare professionals and 10 Burmese women before and after birth. Observations of interactions (130 h) between health care providers and Burmese women were also conducted. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.


      The healthcare professionals’ practices differed between the antenatal clinics and the postnatal ward. Numerous barriers to accessing culturally appropriate antenatal care were evident. In contrast, the care provided in the postnatal ward was woman and family centered and culturally sensitive. One overarching theme, “The system is in control’ was identified, and comprised three sub-themes (1) ‘Being processed’ (2) ‘Insensitivity to cultural practices’ and, (3) ‘The space to care’.

      Discussion and conclusions

      The health system and healthcare professionals controlled the way antenatal care was provided to Burmese migrant women. This bureaucratic and culturally insensitive approach to antenatal care impacted on some women’s decision to engage in antenatal care. Conversely, the more positive examples of woman-centered care evident after birth in the postnatal ward, can inform service delivery.


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