Achieving equitable maternity outcomes

Useful resources

Women from ethnic minority backgrounds have long been known to face additional maternity risks

The risk of BAME women and babies dying during pregnancy and childbirth is up to five times higher than for white women and recent studies show mortality involving coronavirus disproportionately affects those from a BAME background (IFS 2020). Additionally UK Obstetric Surveillance System have found that 55% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus are from a BAME background, with Black pregnant women eight times more likely to be admitted with COVID-19, and Asian women four times more likely than white women.

Achieving equity in outcomes in maternity is a priority for the work of the Maternity Transformation programme.

Boosting support for pregnant women with heightened risks

In June 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked local maternity teams to provide additional perinatal support for BAME women during the coronavirus pandemic. This included four specific actions to minimise the additional risk of COVID-19 for BAME women and their babies.

These steps were:

  1. Increasing support of at-risk pregnant women, for example, making sure clinicians have a lower threshold to review, admit and consider multidisciplinary escalation in women from a BAME background.
  2. Reaching out and reassuring pregnant BAME women with tailored communications.
  3. Ensuring hospitals discuss vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy with all women.
  4. Ensuring all providers record on maternity information systems the ethnicity of every woman.

This is just one of a series of measures to support pregnant women from BAME communities. The NHS Long Term plan commits to ensuring that by 2024, three-quarters of pregnant BAME women will receive care from the same midwife before, during and after they give birth. This is proven to help reduce pre-term births, hospital admissions, the need for intervention during labour and to improve women’s over experience of care.

Enhancing engagement with diverse communities

Improved communication and outreach with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities is imperative to reduce maternal inequalities and to deliver safer, more personalised care.

Local maternity systems should reach out and engage local pregnant BAME women with tailored communications via a communications plan, which should be co-produced with their maternity voices partnerships and relevant community organisations.

To support local maternity systems to enhance communication with diverse groups and communities, the Maternity Transformation programme has produced a communications toolkit. This toolkit has been co-produced and provides helpful suggestions about how to communicate with women of different backgrounds, about the extra support that is available to them, as well as signposting to currently available publications, messaging, insights and templates.