Guidance

Women's health: migrant health guide

Advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients for healthcare practitioners.

Main messages

Be aware of possible religious and cultural sensitivities when discussing sexual and reproductive matters.

Where language is a problem in discussing sexual or reproductive matters, offer a female interpreter. It is inappropriate to use children as interpreters for adults, particularly when discussing intimate concerns.

If you have concerns that a patient may be a victim of trafficking, you can contact the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

Some cultural practices may expose women to non-infectious environmental hazards.

Sexual and reproductive health

Different religions and cultures have different beliefs and practices concerning menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. These can affect health and treatment compliance. Explore the patient’s beliefs and understanding.

Enquire about past history of cervical and breast screening (where age appropriate) and provide information about the NHS routine cervical screening and breast screening programmes.

Offer girls aged up to 18 immunisation against human papillomavirus (HPV).

A sexual history is an important part of an overall health assessment. Consider whether the patient may require a full sexual health screen for sexually transmitted infections on the basis of country of origin and sexual history.

Sexual health promotion including safer sex advice is important to address with all sexually active people.

Enquire about family planning requirements. Inform patients that contraceptive services are free and confidential.

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) affects women from certain countries.

Pregnancy

For women planning pregnancy, or who are pregnant, inform them of their rights to maternity care and explain the NHS system of antenatal care, including routine antenatal screening. They may have different expectations from their country of origin.

See guidance on managing viral rash illness in pregnancy.

Listeria infections have been found to be more common in pregnancy among ethnic minority groups in England and Wales.

Encourage anyone who is eligible for the ‘Healthy Start’ scheme to apply.

Some pregnant women may choose to travel back to their country of origin to be with family for their delivery.

See:

Different airlines have different rules about flying in pregnancy and the woman should be advised to check both with the airline she intends to fly with, and with her insurance company. In addition she may need a letter from her GP stating she is fit to fly.

Resources

Pregnancy

NHS Choices: pregnancy

NHS Choices: testing for infections in pregnancy

Routine antenatal screening from Patient.info

Screening tests for you and your baby (English, easy read and 12 other languages)

Food Standards Agency advice on listeria

NaTHNaC advice on travel and pregnancy including malaria prevention

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: Malaria and pregnancy

Healthy Start patient leaflets

Pregnancy and maternity rights for Spanish speaking workers leaflet in English and Spanish from Maternity Action

Breastfeeding: Off to the best start

Healthy Start: information about the scheme for health professionals

Sexual and reproductive health

Family Planning Association Guide to contraception

NHS Cervical Screening Programme: leaflets to offer patients

Breast screening programme: leaflets to give patients

Genital warts and human papillomavirus (HPV): guidance, data and analysis

HPV immunisation schedules and leaflets to share with patients

Violence, trafficking, abuse, human rights

Contact the forced marriage unit (FMU) if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or need help leaving a forced marriage.

See the guidance on forced marriage for professionals protecting, advising, and supporting victims.

UKHTC (United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre) provides a central point for expertise and cooperation on the trafficking of human beings. Tactical advice and victim support available 24 hours per day, every day of the year.

The ‘Asian women, domestic violence and mental health’ toolkit by EACH (Ethnic Alcohol Counselling in Hounslow) provides background information on Asian women’s experiences of domestic violence, its impact on their health, and how health professionals can respond.

Forced marriage & honour based violence screening toolkit

Maternity Action: a national charity working to end inequality and promote the health and well-being of all pregnant women, their partners and children.

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 25 October 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated and made editorial changes to meet GOV.UK style.
  2. First published.