Mark Whitehead 18 April 2023

Racism plays key role in maternity death rates, MPs say

Racism plays key role in maternity death rates, MPs say  image
Image: Monkey Business Images /

‘Shocking’ racism has played a key role in creating higher death rates for black women and those from poorer areas in childbirth, according to a report by MPs.

The women and equalities committee says UK figures for 2018-20 show black women were nearly four times more likely than white women to die within six weeks of giving birth, and Asian women 1.8 times more likely.

Women from the poorest areas of the country, where a higher proportion of babies belonging to ethnic minorities are born, are two and a half times more likely to die than those from the richest, the report says.

The committee is calling for faster progress to tackle racism in the provision of services but says the many complex causes are still not fully understood and more funding and maternity staff are also needed.

The NHS in England said it was committed to making maternity care safer for all women, while the Government says it has invested £165m in the maternity workforce and is promoting careers in midwifery with an extra 3,650 training places a year.

Caroline Nokes, who chairs the committee, said births on the NHS ‘are among the safest in the world’ but black women's raised risk was ‘shocking’ and improvements in disparities between different groups were too slow.

‘It is frankly shameful that we have known about these disparities for at least 20 years – it cannot take another 20 to resolve,’ she added.

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