Inequalities in childbirth outcomes for black women in the UK

Woman’s Hour discusses why black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.

On 15 June, the Woman’s Hour BBC Radio 4 podcast discussed why black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. While death in pregnancy and childbirth is rare in the UK, one report highlights how there is a proportionally higher risk to black women than white.

‘Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care Lessons learned to inform maternity care from the UK and Ireland Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity 2014–16’ report says that ‘Research is urgently needed to understand why black women are five times more likely and Asian women twice as likely to die compared to white women. More research is needed to understand the specific causes of the deaths of women from these ethnic groups.’

Our response to the stats

The chance of death is 1 in 2,500 for black women according to the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths – five times higher than white women.

We responded to these statistics when they were published last year. “We’re outraged that a woman’s mortality during pregnancy is linked to her ethnic origin in the UK today.”

“It is not acceptable that Black and Asian women are at higher risk of dying during pregnancy and this inequality, which has widened in the last year, needs to be urgently investigated and addressed.”

Racial bias in maternity care?

Mars Lord, a doula who supports women through childbirth, talking to BBC about these stats, said one of the problems is that conversations about racial bias in maternity care are “often shut down” by those who feel uncomfortable with the suggestion it exists.

“It’s not enough to jump up and give your non-racist credentials, you need to be anti-racist,” she says. “We’re going to have to have an uncomfortable conversation about race and the systemic racism in society.”

What do you think?

We’re interested in your thoughts on these findings. Was this your experience of maternity care? Get in touch and share your opinion: