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Protecting my baby: a qualitative study of the health promoting practices of pregnant Burmese migrant women living in Thailand

Titaree Phanwichatkul (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)
Elaine Burns (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)
Pranee Liamputtong (School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)
Virginia Schmied (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 23 November 2018

Issue publication date: 21 February 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe Burmese migrant women’s perceptions of health and well-being during pregnancy, their health promoting practices and their experiences with the Thai antenatal services.

Design/methodology/approach

The study used an ethnographic design. Observations were conducted in two antenatal clinics in southern Thailand. Ten Burmese migrant women and three Burmese interpreters participated in interviews. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings

The Burmese women wanted to take care of themselves and their baby to the best of their ability. This included following traditional practices and attending the antenatal clinic if able. Negotiating the demands of earning an income, and protecting their unborn baby, sometimes led to unhealthy practices such as consuming energy drinks and herbal tonics to improve performance. Accessing antenatal care was a positive health seeking behaviour noted in this community, however, it was not available to all.

Research limitations/implications

This is a small ethnographic study conducted in one Province in Thailand and all Burmese participants were legal migrants. Further research is required to understand the needs of pregnant women not able to access maternity services because of their status as an illegal migrant.

Practical implications

Community-based health promotion initiatives need to focus on the nutrition of pregnant women who are migrants living in southern Thailand. New models of care may increase migrant women’s use of antenatal services.

Originality/value

Most studies of the health of migrant women are conducted in high-income countries. This study demonstrates the difficulties experienced by women migrating from a low to middle-income country.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Australia and a Faculty of Nursing PhD scholarship from Surat-Thani Rajabhat University, Thailand. A special note of appreciation goes to all participants and the staff of the Pak-Klong primary health care and Ranong Hospital, and the Burmese community in Thailand.

Citation

Phanwichatkul, T., Burns, E., Liamputtong, P. and Schmied, V. (2019), "Protecting my baby: a qualitative study of the health promoting practices of pregnant Burmese migrant women living in Thailand", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-08-2017-0032

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited