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Being a bridge: Swedish antenatal care midwives’ encounters with Somali-born women and questions of violence; a qualitative study
Dalarna University, School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Caring Science/Nursing. Uppsala universitet; Centre for Clinical Research, Falun.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1713-6014
Uppsala universitet.
Uppsala universitet.
Dalarna University, School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Caring Science/Nursing.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8947-2949
2015 (English)In: BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, ISSN 1471-2393, E-ISSN 1471-2393, Vol. 15, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Violence against women is associated with serious health problems, including adverse maternal and child health. Antenatal care (ANC) midwives are increasingly expected to implement the routine of identifying exposure to violence. An increase of Somali born refugee women in Sweden, their reported adverse childbearing health and possible links to violence pose a challenge to the Swedish maternity health care system. Thus, the aim was to explore ways ANC midwives in Sweden work with Somali born women and the questions of exposure to violence.

Methods: Qualitative individual interviews with 17 midwives working with Somali-born women in nine ANC clinics in Sweden were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: The midwives strived to focus on the individual woman beyond ethnicity and cultural differences. In relation to the Somali born women, they navigated between different definitions of violence, ways of handling adversities in life and social contexts, guided by experience based knowledge and collegial support. Seldom was ongoing violence encountered. The Somali-born women’s’ strengths and contentment were highlighted, however, language skills were considered central for a Somali-born woman’s access to rights and support in the Swedish society. Shared language, trustful relationships, patience, and networking were important aspects in the work with violence among Somali-born women.

Conclusion: Focus on the individual woman and skills in inter-cultural communication increases possibilities of overcoming social distances. This enhances midwives’ ability to identify Somali born woman’s resources and needs regarding violence disclosure and support. Although routine use of professional interpretation is implemented, it might not fully provide nuances and social safety needed for violence disclosure. Thus, patience and trusting relationships are fundamental in work with violence among Somali born women. In collaboration with social networks and other health care and social work professions, the midwife can be a bridge and contribute to increased awareness of rights and support for Somali-born women in a new society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BioMed Central, 2015. Vol. 15, no 1
Keyword [en]
Violence, Somali born women, Antenatal care midwife, Communication, Trustful relationships, Networking, Person-centered, Qualitative method
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Health and Welfare
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-17302DOI: 10.1186/s12884-015-0429-zPubMedID: 25591791OAI: diva2:806466
Available from: 2015-04-20 Created: 2015-04-20 Last updated: 2016-08-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. 'Moving On' and Transitional Bridges: Studies on migration, violence and wellbeing in encounters with Somali-born women and the maternity health care in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>'Moving On' and Transitional Bridges: Studies on migration, violence and wellbeing in encounters with Somali-born women and the maternity health care in Sweden
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

During the latest decade Somali-born women with experiences of long-lasting war followed by migration have increasingly encountered Swedish maternity care, where antenatal care midwives are assigned to ask questions about exposure to violence. The overall aim in this thesis was to gain deeper understanding of Somali-born women’s wellbeing and needs during the parallel transitions of migration to Sweden and childbearing, focusing on maternity healthcare encounters and violence. Data were obtained from medical records (paper I), qualitative interviews with Somali-born women (II, III) and Swedish antenatal care midwives (IV). Descriptive statistics and thematic analysis were used. Compared to pregnancies of Swedish-born women, Somali-born women’s pregnancies demonstrated later booking and less visits to antenatal care, more maternal morbidity but less psychiatric treatment, less medical pain relief during delivery and more emergency caesarean sections and small-for-gestational-age infants (I). Political violence with broken societal structures before migration contributed to up-rootedness, limited healthcare and absent state-based support to women subjected to violence, which reinforced reliance on social networks, own endurance and faith in Somalia (II). After migration, sources of wellbeing were a pragmatic “moving-on” approach including faith and motherhood, combined with social coherence. Lawful rights for women were appreciated but could concurrently risk creating power tensions in partner relationships. Generally, the Somali-born women associated the midwife more with providing medical care than with overall wellbeing or concerns about violence, but new societal resources were parallel incorporated with known resources (III). Midwives strived for woman-centered approaches beyond ethnicity and culture in care encounters, with language, social gaps and divergent views on violence as potential barriers in violence inquiry. Somali-born women’s strength and contentment were highlighted, and ongoing violence seldom encountered according to the midwives experiences (IV). Pragmatism including “moving on” combined with support from family and social networks, indicate capability to cope with violence and migration-related stress. However, this must be balanced against potential unspoken needs at individual level in care encounters.With trustful relationships, optimized interaction and networking with local Somali communities and across professions, the antenatal midwife can have a “bridging-function” in balancing between dual societies and contribute to healthy transitions in the new society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. 92 p.
, Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from teh Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 1127
Somali-born women, violence, transition, migration, childbearing, midwife, maternal health, perinatal health, wellbeing, qualitative, case-control
National Category
Health Sciences
Research subject
Health and Welfare, Kvinnor och mäns erfarenheter och upplevelser av könsrelaterat våld i väpnade konflikter
urn:nbn:se:du-20502 (URN)978-91-554-9302-8 (ISBN)
External cooperation:
Public defence
2015-10-01, Universitetshuset Sal IX, Uppsala, 11:08 (English)
Available from: 2015-12-22 Created: 2015-12-22 Last updated: 2016-08-29Bibliographically approved

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