National guidelines recommend repeated screening for depression and anxiety for all women in the perinatal period. Routine screening in pregnancy is limited due to service, community and individual barriers.
Perinatal depression and perinatal anxiety affect up to 20% of all women. Women of refugee background are at even greater risk for perinatal mental health conditions due to refugee experiences and resettlement stressors.
To evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a perinatal mental health screening program for women of refugee background from the perspective of health professionals.
A mixed methods design guided by the Normalization Process Theory was used. Data were collected at a dedicated refugee antenatal clinic in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. An online survey (n=38), focus groups (n=2; 13 participants) and semi-structured interviews (n=8; 11 participants) with health professionals were conducted.
Under the four constructs of the Normalization Process Theory, health professionals reported improvements in identifying and referring women with mental health issues, more open and in-depth conversations with women about mental health and valued using an evidenced-based measure. Key issues included professional development, language barriers and time constraints.
Implementing a perinatal mental health screening program has been positively received. Strategies for sustainability include professional development and the addition of audio versions of the measures.
This perinatal mental health screening program is acceptable and a feasible option for health professionals. Health professionals value providing more holistic care and have more open discussion with women about mental health.