Challenges and opportunities for sexual and reproductive healthcare services for immigrant women in Sweden

  • Date:
  • Location: A1:111a, BMC, Husargatan, ingång A11, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Åkerman, Eva
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Socialmedicinsk epidemiologi
  • Contact person: Åkerman, Eva
  • Disputation

This thesis aims to obtain an understanding of immigrant women’s access to healthcare services in Sweden in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Data were obtained from three different quantitative cross-sectional studies using self-administrated questionnaires and one qualitative study based on in-depth interviews.

The sample consists of immigrant women, predominantly refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia in Study I (n=288) and Thai immigrant women in Studies II–IV: Study II (n=804), Study III (n=19) and Study IV (n=266). The results indicate that social capital factors seem to play an important role in knowledge about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. About one-third of immigrant women reported lack of knowledge of where to go for contraceptive counselling. Lack of knowledge was associated with experiencing lack of emotional social support and not having children. An even higher proportion lacked knowledge of where to go for HIV testing, which was associated with not having participated in a health examination. In a sample of Thai immigrant women, lack of knowledge about SRH services was associated with living without a partner, having low trust in others, having predominantly bonding social relationships and belonging to the oldest age groups. In all studies, the majority had not been tested for HIV or participated in contraceptive counselling. Among the Thai women, despite expressing a need for SRH care, most participants had not sought this type of care. Women found it challenging to seek care in Sweden due to lack of knowledge about the healthcare system and language difficulties. The majority of Thai women reported a significant need for information related to SRH services. Women who had never been HIV tested in Thailand had increased odds of not being tested in Sweden.

Lack of knowledge of where to turn for contraceptive counselling and HIV testing among immigrant women is a missed opportunity, as all citizens in Sweden have free access to these services. Providing information on SRH services to all immigrants in their native language, regardless of immigration status, is an important step in achieving equal access to SRH care.