Report Highlights Inequality in Maternity Care

MPs call out ‘glaring’ disparities in maternal health

A report from the Women and Equalities Committee has called for faster progress to deal with the ‘appalling’ and ‘glaring’ inequalities that still exist within our maternal health services.

The report shines a light on the climbing death rates impacting black and Asian women, as well as people from poorer backgrounds both during and after childbirth.

As of 2022, black women were nearly four times more likely to die through childbirth than white women. Asian women were almost two times more likely, and women from the poorest areas of the UK were two and a half times more likely to die than those from the richest.

Most of these women have died from complications that could affect any pregnant woman. But the committee heard that their risks were not always communicated to the relevant staff, making it more difficult for the right treatment to be provided.

Black women face ‘stereotyping’ and ‘different treatment’

Professor Marian Knight, who leads a team investigating every maternal death in the UK, told the BBC that there was “nothing inherently different about black and brown women’s bodies that is leading to (the) disparity”.

Instead, she said, there is evidence of stereotyping taking place that has led to different treatment being given. This includes “black women being assumed to have lower pain thresholds”, meaning they are sometimes less likely to receive certain forms of pain relief.

Sandra Igwe, who set up her own pressure group to campaign for better care for black mothers, went through traumatic births with each of her two daughters. She said that on both occasions, medical professionals “ignored (her) pain” and dismissed her when she repeatedly asked for pain relief.

Similarly, the co-founder of the charity Five X More, Tinuke Awe, told the committee that her pain was “actively dismissed” during the birth of her son and that this led to her needing a forceps delivery.

These personal accounts, along with the opinions of medical experts and government ministers, have contributed towards a series of recommendations for the improvement of maternity care within the NHS.

Final recommendations set out in the report

One of the main recommendations put forward by the report was that Health Education England should lead a review involving the Royal College of Midwives to ‘ensure that both the training curricula and continuing professional development requirements for all maternity staff include evidence-based learning on maternal health disparities’.

The committee also called for the widespread implementation of ‘continuity of carer’, so that women can receive care from the same midwifery team throughout their pregnancy. They did admit, however, that this would be a challenge with the current shortage of staff in maternity services.

In response to the report’s recommendations, NHS England has said it is committed to ensuring “all women receive high-quality care before, during and after their pregnancy”. They also said that £6.8 million had been invested to help local health systems reduce inequalities.

Getting support after negligence during pregnancy

Suffering any type of negligence throughout a pregnancy or during childbirth can be incredibly upsetting. As well as the physical pain caused, you may also struggle to trust another medical professional after your experience.

We work with legal experts who specialise in childbirth negligence claims. They can support you in seeking justice and compensation for what you’ve been through, as well as highlighting necessary changes to be made within the unit responsible for your care.

To find out more about how we could help you, give our friendly claims advisors a call or make an enquiry online.


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