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Protecting human rights in childbirth

New MBRRACE report shows Black women still four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth

  • Report published today (MBRRACE-UK Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care, 11 November) shows the disparity in maternal mortality rates between women from Black and Asian aggregated ethnic groups and White women remains more than four times higher for Black women, two times higher for mixed ethnicity women and almost twice as high for Asian women.
  • Birthrights, the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights and author of the report’s foreword, is running a year-long inquiry into racial injustice in maternity services

A report published by MBRRACE-UK has revealed the persistent stark disparity in maternal mortality rates between women from Black and Asian aggregated ethnic groups and White women.

Maternal mortality rates were found to be more than four times higher for Black women, two times higher for mixed ethnicity women and almost twice as high for Asian women. 

Amy Gibbs, Chief Executive of Birthrights, which is running an inquiry into racial injustice in maternity care, said:

‘While there has been a small drop in the maternal mortality rate for Black women in recent MBRRACE reports, this bleak picture has not changed in over a decade. We remain deeply concerned that Black and Brown people’s basic human rights to safety, dignity and equality in pregnancy and childbirth are not being protected, respected or upheld. 

As this report’s findings come to light, we are analysing our own evidence from hundreds of Black, Brown and mixed ethnicity women and birthing people about their experiences and the impacts of systemic racism on their care. Emerging themes from our inquiry, backed up by testimony from healthcare professionals, include feeling unsafe, their concerns being ignored or dismissed, denial of pain relief due to racial stereotypes, and pervasive microaggressions causing harm or distress. 

We began this inquiry recognising that systemic racism exists in society as a whole – so it must also impact maternity care. We must also understand the systemic, multi-layered discrimination against pregnant women and birthing people which prevents them receiving the best care before, during and after pregnancy and which may result in the ultimate tragedy of a maternal death. These facts are not new and action is long overdue. 

We must all play a part in the solution – whether through advocacy, recognising the impacts of our own bias, validating a mother’s experiences and concerns, or simply being the one person to listen and act.’

Notes for editors

‘MBRRACE-UK’ is the collaboration appointed by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) to run the national Maternal, Newborn and Infant clinical Outcome Review Programme (MNI-CORP) which continues the national programme of work conducting surveillance and investigating the causes of maternal deaths, stillbirths and infant deaths.

npeu.ox.ac.uk/mbrrace-uk

About Birthrights

Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.

Read our mission statement and values.

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