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Report by Birthrights reveals startling racial injustice in maternity care

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The safety of Black, Asian and mixed ethnicity women is being put at risk in UK maternity care - a damning new report has revealed. 

Leading human rights charity Birthrights interviewed hundreds of participants during a year-long Inquiry for their ‘Systemic Racism, not Broken Bodies’ report, and found women were ‘dehumanised’, ‘isolated’ and even ‘threatened’.

More than 300 people including mothers and those with experience of racial injustice in a maternity setting gave evidence to an expert panel chaired by Shaheen Rahman QC, a barrister who specialises in clinical negligence. 

The most common themes revealed from the testimonies were; women not being listened to, concerns about pain and contractions being routinely ignored, and being confronted with negative stereotypes that impacted on the care given. 

The new statistics follows a report last year that found that Black women in the UK are four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women; Asian and mixed-race women are twice as likely. 

Birthrights has now made a series of calls to action, to ask for serious change to be made.

The charity calls on all parts of the maternity system to:

  • Commit to be an anti-racist organisation 
  • Decolonise maternity curriculums and guidance 
  • Make Black and Brown women and birthing people decision-makers in their care and the wider maternity system 
  • Create safe, inclusive workforce cultures 
  • Dismantle structural barriers to racial equity through national policy change

Shoosmiths partner and clinical negligence specialist Denise Stephens, of Shoosmiths SI, said: “Sadly this report proves again that time and time again, women are simply not being listened to, and there is clear racial inequality in a maternity setting. This is an excellent and informative piece of research and we can only hope some of the crucial recommendations are now taken forward.”

Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful care during pregnancy and childbirth by protecting human rights.

Only last week, partners Denise Stephens and Sue Prior sat down with the charity’s programme director Maria Booker to discuss the findings of the report in their latest podcast.

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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