The MBRRACE-UK Saving Lives, Improving Mothers' Care report found that black women in the UK are five times as likely as white women to die during pregnancy or childbirth.
About the Author
In this interview, Patient Safety Learning talks to Tinuke, co-founder of the Five X More campaign and founder of the mothers group, Mums and Tea.
Questions & Answers
Can you tell us about the Five X More campaign and how it started?
We started the Five X More campaign as a response to the MBRRACE 2018 report which highlighted that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth in comparison to a white woman. I run a company called Mums and Tea, holding fun events and meet-ups for mothers. I found that a lot of women echoed my own birth experience with my first son. It wasn’t a pleasant one.
Many women I spoke to anecdotally had terrible experiences when giving birth. They felt like they were not being listened to, their pain wasn’t taken seriously or they were not given pain medication on time as a result. Also, if you look back at the statistics over the years we can see that these disparities are not new and in fact black women have been at a higher risk of dying since as early as 1994.
It was very shocking to see that nothing seemed to have been done and the number unfortunately kept rising. So, I decided to join forces with my friend Rebecca, who runs Prosperitys, a social enterprise specifically designed to support black and South Asian pregnant women. Together we created Five X More.
To raise awareness, we launched the #fivexmore selfie campaign, photographs of women holding one hand up to the camera like stop sign. We have also published five recommended steps that pregnant women can take through pregnancy and labour to help reduce their risk of harm.
You have started a petition, can you tell us more about it and the next steps?
Our petition asks for the government to improve maternal mortality rates and health outcomes for black women. We have asked for specific research to be done into the statistics to find out what in particular black women are dying from as well as recommendations to improve healthcare for black women. The petition exceeded the 100,000 signatures needed to be considered for debate in parliament but we are still waiting to hear whether this will take place.
We received a response from the government on 26 June 2020 in which they committed to funding the necessary research into factors associated with the higher risk of maternal death for black and South Asian women. They also recommended ‘continuity of carer’ as part of the long-term NHS plan for ‘BAME’ women and women from deprived areas. This is very disappointing as the petition asked for urgent action and recommendations for black women specifically and the response was a very general one targeted at ‘BAME’ women.
What else do you think needs to happen in response to the MBRRACE findings that black women are five times as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women?
While specific research must be done to find out exactly what black women are dying from, we think that more conversations and training need to be had about the role racism plays in maternity care. These disparities are shocking but unfortunately are not new and cannot be solely down to biological factors.
What can healthcare providers and staff do to help address these disparities?
Health professionals can start off by acknowledging these statistics. While the campaign is getting popular and the petition has over 150,000 signatures, a lot of people still do not know that these disparities exist as it is not taught in medical curricula.
They can also help by checking themselves for any unconscious or racial bias that they may have towards black women. For example, the stereotypes of the ‘strong’ black woman or even the opposite where black women may not be listened to because it is perceived that they are moaning or being overly sensitive. They can also start listening to black women who say they are in pain as anecdotally we have heard too many times that black women are not taken seriously or their pain is not believed, which has resulted in the window of opportunity for pain relief being missed.
Some maternity services are now referring black women to be cared for under specialist teams who are able to offer longer appointments (e.g. Needing Extra Support Teams). Do you think this will help achieve safer outcomes?
This sounds like a good idea in theory. However, we think that this can only really be effective if the people in the specialist teams are aware of these statistics and disparities and are actively doing all they can to take black women’s concerns seriously. If not, it will just be more of the same.
How can people support the Five X More campaign?
If you would like to support us, you can:
- Sign the petition
- Share your own #fivexmore selfie on social media. Hold up your hand in front of you like a STOP sign. Share on your social media accounts using the #fivexmore and tag us @fivexmore_
- Donate via our website www.fivexmore.com
- Continue to have discussions to raise awareness about this shocking disparity. accounts using the #fivexmore and tag us @fivexmore_