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'I was repeatedly ignored' - report finds maternity racism

Black and Asian women are being harmed by racial discrimination in maternity care, according to an inquiry.

The year-long investigation into "racial injustice" was conducted by the charity Birthrights.

Women reported feeling unsafe, being denied pain relief, facing racial stereotyping about their pain tolerance, and microaggressions.

The government has set up a taskforce to tackle racial disparities in maternity care.

Hiral Varsani says she was traumatised by her treatment during the birth of her first child.

The 31-year-old from north London developed sepsis - a potentially life-threatening reaction to an infection - after her labour was induced, which she says was only spotted after a long delay.

"I was shivering, my whole body was aching, my heart was beating really fast and I felt terrible. But everyone kept saying everything was normal," she says. "It was almost 24 hours later before a doctor took my bloods for the first time and realised I was seriously ill."

She believes her race played a role in her care: "I experienced microaggressions and was stereotyped because of the colour of my skin.

"I was repeatedly ignored, they just thought I was a weak little Indian girl, who was unable to take pain."

While death in pregnancy or childbirth is very rare in the UK, there are stark racial disparities in maternal mortality rates. Black women are more than four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women in the UK, while women from Asian backgrounds face almost twice the risk.

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Source: BBC News, 23 May 2022


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