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Natal care Aboriginal WOMEN PREFER

Research News | 27 Jun 2014

An Aboriginal Families Study was recently conducted by researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Adelaide, in partnership with the AHCSA. The study focussed on the experiences of Aboriginal women and families having a baby in South Australia.

The aims of the study

A comparison of the experiences and views of women attending mainstream models of antenatal care with those accessing care via the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program:

Assess factors contributing to early and continuing engagement with antenatal care.
Use this information to inform strengthening of services for Aboriginal families.

What was done

A team of 12 Aboriginal research interviewers invited women living in urban, regional and remote areas of South Australia to take part in the study by completing an interview booklet when their baby was around 4-9 months old. Before the interviews started the study, a research partnership was formed with the AHCSA and two Aboriginal researchers, Roxanne Miller and Hayley Wilson. A consultation was carried out with Aboriginal community organisations and communities to establish their thoughts about the idea of a research project of this nature. The intention was to assess the experience of women having a baby in the state regarding the care they received from services when they were pregnant, and after the baby was born. An Aboriginal Advisory Group was established as early as 2007 to guide the study, and has met regularly with the researchers to ensure that the study stayed on track.

Who took part

  • 344 women who had a baby in South Australia between July 2011 and June 2013.
  • The average age of women in the study was 25 years; the youngest was 15 and the oldest was 43.
  • 39% of the women were living in Adelaide at the time of completing the interview booklet.
  • 61% were living in regional and 39% in remote areas of South Australia.

The results

  • Women in the study who received antenatal care from a metropolitan or regional Aboriginal Family Birthing Program (AFBP) were significantly more likely to have had positive experiences of care than women attending mainstream public antenatal care services.
  • Only 36% of women receiving mainstream public care described their antenatal care as ‘very good’ compared with 65% of women attending an Aboriginal Health Service.
  • 63% of women received care from a metropolitan AFBP service, and 54% of women attended a regional AFBP service.

The findings show that a dedicated focus on improving appropriate care for Aboriginal women can make a positive difference
to their views and experiences of public antenatal care. The Aboriginal Family Birthing Program, offered in six regional areas, and at a number of metropolitan sites, has resulted in more women having positive antenatal care experiences.

What’s happening in women’s lives during pregnancy

  • Over half (56%) of women in the study had experienced three or more stressful events and social health issues such as housing problems, death of a family member, family conflict, or needing to go to court while they were pregnant.
  • One in four (27%) had experienced between five to 11 issues.

What helps women stay positive and strong

Toward the end of the interview, women were asked what helped them to remain positive and strong. Some of their responses were very uplifting:

  • My family
  • Thinking of the future for my children
  • Being a role model for my kids
  • Knowing who I am
  • Knowing I am giving my children the best future I can provide
  • Looking at my three children and thinking how precious they are to me
  • Having my children and family around

The women spoke enthusiastically about having happy, healthy children; the support of their families, and the support of their partners; the importance of being a role model for their children; and believing in themselves and their capacity to be a strong mother. Other factors that encouraged the women to stay strong were: study, education and work; positive life experiences; making an effort to stay healthy and look after themselves as well as support from services.

What researchers are doing now

The team have been working with the Aboriginal Advisory Group to interpret and write up the study findings. Part of what they are doing now is sharing the study findings with communities, services and policy makers. Preliminary results have already been reported to policy makers and services. They will be continuing to write up the study findings over the next 12 months and their major goal is to ensure that the findings are used to inform strategies to strengthen services for Aboriginal families in South Australia.

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