Prior to COVID-19, postnatal resettled refugee women in Canada reported barriers to healthcare and low levels of social support, contributing to maternal health morbidities. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be further exacerbating health inequities for marginalized populations. The experiences of resettled refugee women are not fully known.
To understand Syrian refugee women’s experiences accessing postnatal healthcare services and supports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Semi-structured, virtual interviews were conducted with eight resettled Syrian refugee women living in Nova Scotia (Canada) who were postnatal between March and August 2020. Data analysis was informed by constructivist grounded theory.
Three themes emerged: “the impacts of COVID-19 on postnatal healthcare;” “loss of informal support;” and “grief and anxiety.” Women experienced difficult healthcare interactions, including socially and physically isolated deliveries, challenges accessing in-person interpreters, and cancelled or unavailable in-home services (e.g., public health nurse and doula visits). Increased childcare responsibilities and limited informal supports due to pandemic restrictions left women feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Stay-at-home orders resulted in some women reporting feelings of isolation and loss, as they were unable to share in person postnatal moments with friends and family, ultimately impacting their mental wellness.
COVID-19 and associated public health restrictions had significant impacts on postnatal Syrian refugee women. Data presented in this study demonstrated the ways in which the pandemic environment and related restrictions amplified pre-existing barriers to care and postnatal health inequalities for resettled refugee women—particularly a lack of postnatal informal supports and systemic barriers to care.