Black Maternal Healthcare and Mortality Debate

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Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Black Maternal Healthcare and Mortality

Naz Shah Excerpts
Monday 19th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Naz Shah Portrait Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab) [V]
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. May I associate myself with all the comments that have been made? I commend in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) for the courage and bravery with which she spoke.

The disparity of maternity care outcomes in England is already well known. Black women are four to five times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, while our Asian women, most of whom are from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, are two to three times more likely than white women to die during those periods. Those statistics have been known for many years, but in the last 20 years or so they seem to have gone the wrong way and got worse.

We must find out why black and south Asian women and their babies are more likely to die. In addition, we need to find out why black women and then south Asian women are most likely have an emergency C-section. Why are black women and then south Asian women most likely to have excessive bleeding? Are those factors contributing to their deaths? Are those women receiving the right care at the right time? We need to look further into all those questions, because most of the deaths are likely to be preventable.

Why do racial and ethnic variations in health outcomes occur? The Government’s latest report suggests that institutional or structural forms of racism just do not exist, and that, in fact, they are just in our minds, or they are narratives pushed by groups that lobby on racism. I would be really grateful if the Minister explained why, if there is no racism, those disparities exist.

I am co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Muslim women, which is currently conducting research to find out about Muslim women with babies and maternity care, so that lessons can be learned to mitigate existing inequalities. Muslim women are from diverse ethnicities, and in the UK they are mostly from black and south Asian backgrounds, but we wanted to take an intersectional approach to find out how overlapping factors, such as ethnicity and faith, could affect their healthcare. The aim is to find out why those women have poor health outcomes, and to understand their perspectives and experiences of the healthcare during and after pregnancy. The findings of the inquiry are set to be published in the autumn.

This debate signifies just how important such an inquiry is, so I will end by expressing my gratitude to the whole team in the APPG on Muslim women, to the Muslim Women’s Network UK, and to all colleagues across the House who raise this important issue.