Perinatal mental health of women from CALD backgrounds


12 June, 2013

beyondblue has recently produced a new information guide to assist health practitioners working with women in the perinatal period, from the period of conception to a year or so after the baby’s birth. 

Women from CALD backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to developing emotional distress or mental health disorders in the perinatal period and they often do not receive the care they need.

Australia has a culturally and linguistically diverse population with approximately 27% of the estimated resident population born overseas. In the coming years, Australia’s population is poised to remain strongly multicultural, multi-faith and multilingual.

The new beyondblue resource, Perinatal mental health of women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds: A guide for primary care health professionals will assist practitioners to provide culturally-appropriate and safe perinatal emotional and mental health care for women of immigrant or refugee background and their families during the perinatal period.

Developed over several months, it is based on the findings of a literature review and the collective expertise of a national expert reference group. The group included representatives from community organisations, maternity and primary health professionals, perinatal psychiatrists, researchers, and women and family members of immigrant and refugee background who have experienced perinatal mental health problems. Group members communicated in person, by teleconference and email and project staff from MHiMA and beyondblue worked together to guide the progress of several drafts of the document. In addition, reference group members talked directly with consumers and carers, asking them what they believed health professionals needed to be more informed about and what interventions had had the most positive impact on them. Their valuable perspectives have been integrated into the document and their voices have been captured in quotes.   

In summary, the resource offers an insight into the additional issues that newly-arrived women and their families commonly face and guidance on how to respond. Applying a cultural-responsiveness approach, the information is relevant to working with women of any cultural background. It shows how to consider cultural, social and religious values, beliefs and preferences, integrate these into every professional’s practice and apply them to the core tasks of engaging, assessing and providing a quality service.

Together with a new resource on working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, this CALD resource adds to the companion resources provided free to all primary health care professionals working with women and families in the perinatal period. It complements beyondblue’s (2011) comprehensive Perinatal clinical practice guidelines: Depression and related disorders – anxiety, bipolar disorder and puerperal psychosis – in the perinatal period by addressing cultural safety and responsiveness.  

“The Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA) project is funded by the Australian Government, Department of Health & Ageing to provide a national focus for advice and support to providers and governments on mental health and suicide prevention for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds” said Hamza Vayani, Executive Officer. “We are all about finding ways to improve the capacity of mental health and primary care sectors to respond to the needs of our diverse community. We know that partnerships are critical to making this happen. We are delighted to work with beyondblue to produce this comprehensive and valuable resource. And we would like to thank all the individuals, including health professionals, researchers, carers and consumers, who generously shared their expertise and wisdom." 

The 6 page resource covers the following content:

  • multicultural Australia and common migration, refugee and adjustment experiences;
  • circumstances that impact on the well-being of mothers and infants and factors that influence access to health care;
  • an introduction to the diversity of cultural concepts of health and illness held in our community, the core components of providing culturally responsive health care, practice points and approaches to cultural assessment;
  • where to go for more information and advice including useful resources for women and their families.

It can be downloaded from the beyondblue website or from MHiMA's knowledge exchange. Hard copies can be ordered via the beyondblue website


Sue McDonough
Project Officer