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More support needed for pregnant BAME women due to Covid-19 risk, NHS England says

Pregnant woman

Pregnant women from black, Asian and minority ethnic background should receive more checks and support because of their heightened risk to Covid-19, NHS England has said.  

Black pregnant women are eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19, while Asian women are four times as likely, analysis from Oxford University published over the weekend has shown.

In addition, 55% of the pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus are from a BAME background, even though they only make up a quarter of the births in England and Wales. 

Chief midwifery officer for England Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent wrote to hospitals at the weekend telling them to lower the threshold to review, admit and consider multidisciplinary escalation for pregnant women from a BAME background.  

She said: ‘While Public Health England is continuing to assess and advise on the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on ethnic groups, I want to make sure that the NHS is doing everything we can to reach out, reassure and support those pregnant women and new mums most at risk.’ 

Ms Dunkley-Bent also instructed maternity units to reach out and reassure BAME women. All maternity providers should also record the ethnicity – and other risk factors – of every woman.  

Women low in vitamin D may be more vulnerable to Covid-19, so Ms Dunkley-Bent told providers that women with darker skin or those who always cover their skin when outside should consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D.  

Ms Dunkley-Bent continued: ‘Understandably, the pandemic has caused pregnant women increased anxiety over the last couple of months, but I want to make sure that every pregnant woman in England knows that the NHS is here for them – if you have any doubt whatsoever that something isn’t right with you or your baby, contact your midwife immediately.’ 

There is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus, but they have been told to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures as a precaution.   

Last week, the Royal College of Midwifery challenged itself to do better around tackling race, equality and discrimination issues by launching a campaign, Race Matters

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have also disproportionately suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, both among healthcare workers and the general population. 

Public Health England confirmed in a report published earlier this month that death rates from Covid-19 are higher for black and Asian groups than white groups

In addition, a Royal College of Nursing survey found that BAME staff struggle more than their white counterparts to access personal protective equipment