International Women’s Day 2024

Published on: 08/03/2024

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we shine a light on the persistent inequalities that women and birthing people in the UK, especially those from ethnic minorities and deprived areas, face in healthcare, particularly when it comes to maternity care. The resilience and strength displayed by expectant parents in navigating these disparities are truly remarkable and deserve our utmost respect and attention.

Recent reports have highlighted a concerning increase in perinatal mortality rates in the UK for the first time in seven years, with stillbirths rising from 3.33 per 1,000 total births in 2020 to 3.54 per 1,000 total births in 2021. This uptick underlines the urgent need for rigorous reviews of all stillbirths and neonatal deaths to improve clinical care and service delivery. The disparities are even more pronounced in deprived areas and among ethnic minorities, with significantly higher rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths compared to their counterparts in less deprived areas or from a white background.

In response to these alarming disparities, the UK government has initiated efforts to ‘level-up’ maternity care and tackle these issues head-on. A newly established Maternity Disparities Taskforce aims to explore the underlying reasons for disparities in maternity care and address poor outcomes for expectant parents from ethnic minority communities and those living in deprived areas. This initiative is particularly crucial, as data reveals that black women are 40% more likely to experience a miscarriage than white women, and areas like Birmingham, known for high deprivation levels, exhibit the highest rates of neonatal mortality and stillbirths.

The University of Leicester’s MBRRACE-UK team’s research further corroborates these findings, highlighting the significantly higher rates of stillbirth and neonatal death among people living in the UK’s most deprived areas, minority ethnic groups, and those with twin pregnancies. This research emphasises the importance of targeted intervention and support programs to mitigate these disparities. MAMA Academy currently works in partnership with two-thirds of all NHS Trusts, reaching 300,000 expectant parents each year, plus another 115,000 annually through information and advice on it’s website and social media channels. Since 2014 we have distributed nearly 1.6 million support packages. However, despite the undeniable impact of MAMA Academy’s initiatives, financial constraints threaten to hinder our reach. Trusts are not renewing contracts for MAMA Academy’s essential services and they’re not being replaced with in house resources,despite the government claiming to commit to leveling up maternity services. The need to ensure that MAMA Academy’s lifesaving resources, including the MAMA Wellbeing Wallets, remain accessible to all parents as this is now more critical than ever.

These efforts and findings underscore the critical need for a multi-faceted approach to improve maternity care in the UK. By addressing the root causes of these disparities, including social determinants of health, and implementing evidence-based interventions like the MAMA Wellbeing Wallets, we can move closer to a healthcare system that ensures equitable care for all expectant parents, regardless of their socioeconomic status or ethnic background. The courage and resilience of parents facing these challenges, and the dedicated professionals striving to improve maternity care, are a testament to the strength and spirit of expectant parents not just in the UK, but around the world.