A more proactive approach is needed to ensure the right care reaches marginalised women and their families when they need it, the Maternity Disparities Taskforce has agreed.
The discussion at the taskforce’s second meeting this week (16 May) focused on the role of nurses, GPs, and healthcare practitioners in supporting women’s health before and during pregnancy.
The group – which includes experts from across the health service, mothers, government and the voluntary sector – discussed the barriers faced by some women in accessing information and services, such as language barriers, distrust or concerns from asylum seekers over paying for services.
It was agreed that interventions must be more targeted towards women from ethnic minorities, those who live in the most deprived areas, and refugees. Interventions should include the wider health and social care system seeking these women out and bringing services to them, for example by working more closely with local organisations to understand the women it is trying to reach.
This means not only identifying women at higher risk of poor outcomes linked to pregnancy and making sure they receive the right support, but also empowering women with information on how health conditions and risk factors could affect them and what steps they could take for a healthy pregnancy.
The taskforce was launched in February to explore inequalities in maternity care and identify how the government could improve outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities and those living in the most deprived areas.
Research commissioned by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published earlier this year said that maternity care in the UK was ‘failing’ to reach pregnant women living in adverse social circumstances.
A separate report found that Black women were four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, with Asian women twice as likely. It also found that Black women were 40% more likely to experience a miscarriage than white women.
Minister for women’s health Maria Caulfield said: ‘We must do everything we can to empower women with the information and services they need to ensure a healthy pregnancy for mum and baby, no matter their background or where they live…
‘By listening to women’s experiences we can better understand the issues they face and how to improve care, and I look forward to making progress in this area.’
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England, added: ‘The NHS is committed to ensuring that all women, particularly those from ethnic minorities backgrounds and deprived areas can get high quality care before, during and after their pregnancy.
‘Health pre-pregnancy determines health during pregnancy so it is imperative to provide care that is tailored to meet the needs of women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and those who are most deprived.’