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‘Please don’t rush me’: an exploration of Somali women’s experiences of pregnancy and birthing in Melbourne, Australia

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posted on 2023-01-18, 18:17 authored by Paula Hernandez
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor Of Philosophy to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

This thesis explores the experiences of pregnancy and birthing amongst Somali women living in Melbourne, Australia. As a result of the civil war that ensued in Somalia following the demise of the dictatorship there in 1991, large numbers of Somalis were forced to resettle throughout various parts of the world, including Australia. In the state of Victoria, Somali refugees resettled in a number of locations including the Melbourne suburbs of West Heidelberg, Carlton and Fitzroy. In these areas I conducted ethnographic research including participant observation and interviews. Over a period of two years, Somali women living in these locations were interviewed about their interactions with the Australian health system and the bio-medical model on which it is based. Drawing on the literature on the anthropology of birth, in particular critiques of the bio-medical model of care, the thesis examines the women’s views and experiences, particularly in relation to their interactions with the health system as found in Australia. Interviews with representatives of that health system, including doctors, support workers and midwives were also conducted revealing their own insights and experiences. Through the juxtaposition of contrasting models of care, questions were posed about how women’s experiences differed from what they had previously encountered in Somalia: where many women continue to give birth at home with the assistance of local midwives or traditional birth attendants. Only a minority of women in Somalia, mainly those living in urban areas, have access to hospitals or other medical facilities. For many women, therefore, the experience of pregnancy and birth is not usually understood in terms of surveillance or intervention as is the case in Australia. Instead, women highlighted the importance of support networks, agency and bodily integrity when discussing experiences of pregnancy and birth in the context of migration and resettlement. The thesis considers how Somali women have attempted to maintain or recreate these elements in Melbourne, Australia.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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arrow migration 2023-01-10 00:15. Ref: latrobe:42382 (9e0739)

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