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Being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a mother can be a wonderful but stressful time in any woman’s life. However, when a woman is forced to seek sanctuary in a strange country the stress is even greater. She may not know who to turn to for help. She may not understand why she should visit a midwife or doctor. She may not know how to cope with the trauma that she has been through. She will need friends and community support to help her to adapt to life as a mother.

Yorkshire & Humber Maternity Stream Registered Charity No: 1169883

Contact: [email protected]

What are our aims?

  • To ensure asylum seeking and refugee women’s voices are heard and considered when discussing the development of maternity related services and support groups.
  • To develop maternity services and support groups that are welcoming and inclusive for pregnant asylum seeking and refugee women and are designed to meet their specific health and social care needs.
  • To help asylum seeking and refugee women overcome the barriers they experience when accessing maternity services, understanding their choices and attending for care in a timely manner.
  • To develop a supportive community for asylum seeking and refugee women, including a forum for sharing relevant resources.

How do we do this?

By supporting asylum seeking and refugee volunteers, offering training to develop their confidence and encouraging them to get involved in different activities

By working with voluntary and statutory services who support pregnant and postnatal asylum seekers and refugees to improve their understanding of the needs, experiences and entitlements as&r women

Examples of activities the volunteers have been involved in


National and International nursing and midwifery conferences. Chairing conferences

As service users within a university, sitting on interview panels, teaching and assessing health care students

Talking in parliament as part of the ‘Dignity in Pregnancy’ Campaign and the Sanctuary in Parliament event

Sitting on different forums including Health Watch and Maternity Services Liaison Committee

Co-applicant on research grants

Awareness raising sessions for student midwives, social workers, medics and lecturers


What else do we do?

  • Promote the Maternity Service of Sanctuary award
  • Offer training and awareness raising events. Please get in touch for more information.
  • Quarterly Steering meetings
  • Monthly volunteer peer support meetings
  • Meetings with maternity services and refugee organisations across Yorkshire and beyond.
  • Provide up to date resources on our website for you to use

The need to share knowledge and information

    “When discussing the differences between being pregnant and giving birth in different country, one refugee from Zimbabwe laughed at the idea of taking pregnancy tests to confirm a pregnancy. She said “don’t women in this country trust their bodies?” She couldn’t believe that women relied on a chemical test to know what they should just know and that many of them then went to a GP or midwife for another test. She explained that in her country people did not see a health professional unless they were ill and that they tended to give birth at home surrounded by other women from their community. They may walk to hospital for their first birth or if they were ill but otherwise they didn’t because they couldn’t afford to.”

The need to educate AS&R women about the importance of accessing maternity care

14% of maternal deaths in the UK are to asylum seekers and refugees even though they only make up 0.5% of the population (CMACE 2011)

Martha, a refugee woman, recalled her experience of birthing her first child in the UK. She didn’t know anything about midwives and the importance of antenatal care. She began to feel ill so attended the accident and emergency department of the local hospital. She had an emergency caesarean section immediately, not even waiting for her partner to arrive. Her baby was born prematurely and stayed in hospital for several weeks. If she hadn’t gone to hospital when she did, she and her baby could have died. Martha became pregnant with her second child and went to see a midwife as soon as she could. She was monitored throughout the pregnancy and birthed a healthy baby.

Martha wanted to support other pregnant AS&R women and became a volunteer for the Health Befriending Network at the Refugee Council. She also joined the Maternity Stream and ensures women that she meets know how to access maternity care. She attends Maternity Stream meetings to ensure the voice of AS&R women are heard and used to influence policy and practice.