In this Black History Month Blog, hear from Chidera, on the topic of racial inequalities in pregnancy and childbirth, as they draw attention to this critical issue.
My name is Chidera Umeukeje. I am an International Relations student interested in history, policy and societal conversations. To me, Black History Month is a moment to celebrate various black cultures, learn more about our history, analyze the current situation and how to move forward, and most importantly have fun.
Black Maternal Mortality Rates
Racial Inequalities in the UK persist in employment, education, law and health, and recently my attention was captured by the topic, Black Maternal Mortality Rates in the UK. A 2019 study by MBRRACE found that black women are five times as likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth and in the postpartum period than white women. This same statistic is found by Reuters who add that “women from all ethnic minorities were also at greater risk than their white counterparts of their pregnancies resulting in a preterm birth, stillbirth, neonatal death or a baby born with low birth weight”. While this issue is widely known and has been acknowledged by the government, clear reasons for it are hardly stated.
Many point to underlying health conditions and socio-economic factors of black women as reasons for higher mortality rates among them but research in the US suggests disparities still occur even when socio-economic factors and pre-existing conditions are taken into account (Taylor et al). In the UK women note disregard in their care as serious warning signs of complications are deemed overreacting. Women such as Candace Braithwite noted an absence of a sense of empathy in her care compared to the care of other expectant mothers of different races (BBC). Her experiences have been echoed by many other women who also noted serious concerns being dismissed by healthcare professionals (Sowemimo)
This bias against and disbelief of black women may stem from belief in racial myths of black strength. With widespread stories of discrimination and disregard, this is a problem that needs more attention from the government and healthcare workers.