Musings: Muslim women in Ireland are being failed by the maternity system 3 weeks ago

Musings: Muslim women in Ireland are being failed by the maternity system

We still have a long way to go for women's health in Ireland.

Over the years, many women in Ireland have felt let down by the healthcare system.

One of the most recent examples of this being the Cervical Check scandal where many women across the country were given the wrong test results.

Most recently research by Amal Women’s Association, a Muslim women led support group, Maynooth University and The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, shows that Muslim women need greater culturally appropriate support and care when attending Irish maternity services.

Which begs the question...when are we going to start making women's healthcare a priority?

Over 100 Muslim women who had experiences of giving birth in an Irish hospital participated in the study, which was conducted by Dr. Camilla Fitzsimons from the Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University.

Fifty three Irish healthcare workers also participated.

There were a number of key areas for improvement, such as providing translation; ensuring Muslim women had access to nutritious culturally appropriate food, providing education and training for healthcare staff, helping Muslim women access the full range of maternity supports such as ante-natal and breastfeeding support, and respecting Muslim women’s specific cultural needs.

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There was also a call for a need for the specific needs of undocumented Muslim women, many of whom are locked out of services and supports because of their migration status.

The need for a greater awareness of the needs of Muslim women on the part of healthcare workers is essential, as 74 per cent of healthcare workers reported that they were unaware of any policies in respect of providing quality, culturally specific care for Muslim women.

One research participant remarked;

 

"Muslim women are just women of different background … We are not ignorant. We are the same as any other women in the world who want a great new mom experience and we would like to be treated with respect.

Sometimes we can feel ‘I am talking to an ignorant person’ looking inside the physician's eyes."

 

This sense of being othered by physicians and care providers creates a wider environment of exclusion, according to Hanan Amer - chairperson of Amal Women’s Association, a community led organisation that bridges the gap between Muslim women and key services in the areas of health, housing and domestic violence support.

"We have noticed that Muslim migrant women are present for medical appointments at maternity hospitals everyday but very few are present in pre and post-natal opt-in services like physiotherapy, ante-natal classes, breastfeeding support spaces, baby massage, mother and baby groups etc.

We also don’t know how women experience maternity care in general but we know they largely don’t access additional supportive services and groups."

In a modern day multicultural Ireland why is it that these issues are still arising that that the healthcare of expectant mothers is suffering?

The health of women in Ireland has fallen through the cracks for too long and it's time our government started to change that.