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Language barriers​

A barrier to communication between people who do not speak the same language.

  • Language barriers.

  • Resources.

Language barriers

Health professionals and women not being able to understand each other, and therefore have difficulties with communicating due to language barriers is a barrier to care


"When the midwife visits, I can only speak the sentences about requesting a translator … They said that this kind of service is limited … that is what is difficult being Chinese—language barrier."​

Evidence level: ​High

​Parts of the care pathway affected: Deciding to consult, First Contact with Health Professional, Assessment, Decision to disclose, Provision of optimal treatment, Women’s experience of treatment​.

Key literature: ​

Sambrook Smith M, et al. 2019

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Resources that can be used to reduce difficulties with language barriers within services​

  • ACACIA Family support provide pre and postnatal depression support services. They have translated patient information into multiple languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Hindu, Polish, Punjabi, Romanian, Samoan & Urdu).

  • “How are you feeling?” screening tools by Abi Sobowale (Sheffield South West NHS Trust)​.

  • Guidance from Public Health England about language interpreting and translation: 



We recommend service managers ensure recruitment of a diverse workforce​.

We recommend service managers recruit translators or form partnerships with other agencies that can provide additional support (e.g. translation services, interpreters) to translate infographics/leaflets into local languages and to act as an interpreter at appointments if women feel comfortable. ​


We recommend service managers consider investment in live translation tools or telephone interpreting such as Language Line.​

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