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This term is used to refer to those from the Pacific Islands, such as Samoa, Tonga and Rarotonga.

The process of pregnancy and childbirth in the pacific region is a cause for celebration, and very much a community affair.

In the islands, once a woman goes into labour the family and neighbours will gather around the home, bringing and cooking food, looking after other children and waiting for the news of the new member of the community.

Towards the end of the pregnancy a woman will often drink traditional brews to encourage an easy labour.

The placenta will be either buried, or wrapped and thrown into the sea.

At home in the islands, women would usually be delivered by other women, and the male’s role is to cook the food and organise the other children. In New Zealand, most women would expect their partner to support them during labour.

Food is a very important part of life with the expectation of a large celebration meal once the child has been born – special food will be prepared and even if a woman is in hospital it will be brought to her along with extended family members.

The family is of great importance, and a woman would expect to rest and be supported by her extended family for up to several months post partum. Her job is to feed the baby.

Women in New Zealand may feel very abandoned and distressed when they live in relative isolation without all this family and community support. This isolation is thought to add to the risk of developing PND.

Modesty, and humility are also strong values amongst Pasifika, and it can be intensely humiliating to have ones genitals uncovered in front of men in particular. It is considered rude to disagree with figures of authority or to complain and often another family member will advise staff of concerns rather than the woman herself.

Privacy or confidentiality is different amongst Pasifika, and a family will expect to be fully involved in decision making regarding the woman and her baby.

It is usual for infants and toddlers to sleep in bed with other family members and often to get carried around during the day. Older siblings and other relatives will have a large role in caring for the baby.

The rates of post natal depression (using a screening questionnaire) amongst Pasifika women were highly variable in a recent New Zealand study, ranging from a low of 7% amongst Samoan women to a high of 30% in Tongan women.

Unfortunately Pasifika women tend to present with severe illness rather than in earlier stages of distress and there is no information (yet) as to the prevalence of post partum illness in this population, or about any differences between the Island and New Zealand born women.


Siale A Foliaki, Jesse Kokaua, David Schaaf, Colin Tukuitonga, for the New Zealand Mental Health Survey Research Team. Twelve-month and lifetime prevalences of mental disorders and treatment contact among Pacific people in Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey.2006. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 40(10): 924-934

Abbott MW, Williams MM. Postnatal depressive symptoms among Pacific mothers in Auckland: prevalence and risk factors.2006. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 40(3): 230-238

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