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Black mothers in the UK are four times more likely to die in childbirth than their White counterparts. Little is being done to find out why

January 14, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 21.1%. 2 min read.

When pharmacist Ifeoma Onwuka, known to her friends as Laura, went into hospital to have her daughter, she and her husband hoped the delivery would go smoothly, and that they would soon be able to take their new arrival home  to meet her siblings.

According to the latest confidential inquiry into maternal deaths ​(MBRRACE-UK), released Thursday, Black people in England are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or within the first six weeks of childbirth than their White counterparts.

Deeming said Onwuka had been considered a high-risk patient because of her age -- she was 37; her ethnicity -- she was a Black British citizen, who was born in Nigeria; and because she had lost twins during a previous pregnancy.

The MBBRACE-UK​ report, which charts maternal deaths in England found that between 2016 and 2018, maternal death rates were 34 per 100,000 among Black women, compared to eight per 100,000 among White women, 15 per 100,000 Asian women and 25 per 100,000 mixed race women.

The improvement since ​2019's report, which showed Black people were five times more likely to die during childbirth, provides little solace for campaigners, who say research or targets designed to help solve the problem remain near non-existent.

"Health professionals were aware of this for a long time, yet the conversation on disparity was not happening in the public sphere," said Tinuke Awe, co-founder of the campaign group FivexMore, which was named after the disparity highlighted in a 2018 MBRRACE report, and is calling on the government to improve maternal healthcare outcomes for Black women.

In 2018, Black people in the US were three times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than their White or Hispanic counterparts, with a maternal death rate of 37. 1 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The MBBRACE report does not look into specific causes of maternal death according to ethnic groups, which campaigners say makes it harder to pinpoint why the death rate for Black people is so much higher.

Knight said more research was being done, but that pregnancy research in general is underfunded and research gaps on Black female health outcomes in the UK are a reflection of structural biases faced by those working in obstetrics.

These disadvantages can include living in poverty or even one's immigration status -- affecting groups like asylum seekers and migrant women who are considered a high-risk for pregnancy-related death, Rosalind Bragg, the Director of UK charity Maternity Action, told CNN.

They added that: "No woman should have to worry that the color of their skin will impact their pregnancy and we are taking steps to make sure Black and ethnic minority women get the right support and best possible maternity care. "

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