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Black Maternal Health Awareness

Monday 22nd - Sunday 28th April 2024 is the 5th annual Black maternal health awareness week in the UK. This year’s theme is ‘Advancing Black Maternal Health’.


Like any ‘awareness’ day, week or month, we need to remind ourselves that the point of these are to shine a light on a subject or issue which people need to be reminded about, not a topic that deserves our focus for a short space of time. The subject concerned doesn’t just warrant awareness on that particular day, week or month but each and every day of the year, until changes are made and voices are heard.


This week’s awareness brings our attention to Black Maternal Health and to the challenges and shocking disparities Black women face in the maternity space, during pregnancy, labour, birth as well as during the postnatal period. Inequalities in maternity care between Black women and White women in the UK have been known about for many years and yet so much still remains unclear, misunderstood and frankly, at times, absolutely unbelievable.


More research and time needs to be spent on tackling these inequalities, something which the CIC Five X More and other advocates are working on tirelessly in order to provide the care and support that ALL women deserve at what is such a pivotal, vulnerable and important time in their lives.



In May 2022, Tinuke Awe and Clotilde Abe, Co-founders of Five X More, released a report entitled ‘The Black Maternity Experiences Survey. A nationwide study of Black Women’s experiences of maternity services in the United Kingdom’. I would strongly recommend you read the full report, but in the meantime, here are some of my thoughts and extracts to bring your attention to some of the aspects I wanted to bring up for this week of awareness in particular…


"Through speaking to thousands of Black women since starting Five X More in 2019, we quickly realised that we needed to find ways to amplify their voices and experiences through our platforms as we believe that you can learn from both good and bad experiences. However, it became clear that the actual data on Black women’s maternity experiences was almost non-existent."

Tinuke Awe & Clotilde Abe (p.4 of the FiveXMore report)


"In their 2020 Position Statement, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) acknowledged the impact of racial bias on maternal health disparities and proposed recommendations that include conducting clinical research that is inclusive of Black, Asian and minority ethnic women, and training medical students to understand how negative stereotypes and false beliefs about race affect the interactions with the women and families to whom they provide care."

(p.9 of the FiveXMore report)


"The situation is, undeniably, complex. Socioeconomic factors partly explain the racial inequalities in maternal outcomes, but studies of Black, Asian and minority ethnic women’s experiences have revealed the need to look beyond these as a way of explaining the differences observed. (…) it is still unclear why, of all the ethnic minority groups, the greatest risks of adverse outcomes are attributed to Black women.” 

(p.10 of the FiveXMore report)


"The distinct lack of research into the maternity experiences of Black women specifically, means that we know little about why Black women in particular are disproportionately disadvantaged, and even less about how their maternity experiences shape their perception of care.” 

(p.10 of the FiveXMore report)


"Not all Black and Black mixed women reported negative experiences. Some women were happy with their care and expressed praise and gratitude for the attentiveness that they were shown by HCPs throughout their birthing journey. Positive experiences were often those in which the women described feeling informed and being treated with compassion. (...) Women also described positive experiences as those in which there was a clear racial diversity in the workforce which provided them with a sense of reassurance and the feeling that they could relate to the professionals involved in their care.

(p. 28 of the Five X More report)


I can’t express in writing how shocked and saddened I am to my core about these disparities, especially knowing what I know through my work with bump & glide about how very important the right support, care and communication is for women at this huge transitional and vulnerable time in their lives. I have questions of my own that I’m hoping will be answered by the work and research currently being done but my biggest question is… 


WHY? 


Why is there such disparity? Why aren’t Black women given the same care, support, advice, information or choice as White women? I want to understand why… We all need to understand why so that changes are made for women today and those in the future...


I support women from all backgrounds, cultures, religions, race, beliefs, life experiences… Why then doesn’t everyone? What needs to change in the immediate timeframe while we wait for the data, the reports, the research…


What can we ALL do today to make change happen now?


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