The NHS is set to increase support for pregnant Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) women, due to new and pre-existing data that shows that these women are at heightened risk, when it comes to giving birth.
Analysis released over the weekend shows that Black pregnant women are eight times more likely to require hospitalisation with COVID-19, versus white women, while women from an Asian background are four times as likely.
Terrifyingly, previous stats show that Black women stand five times the chance of dying in childbirth, when compared with white women.
Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer and Professor of Midwifery at King's College London and London South Bank University, has written to the country's maternity units and has asked them to take four actions. These, it is hoped, will minimise the risk of COVID-19 for women from a BAME background, and their babies.
- Increasing support of at-risk pregnant women – e.g. making sure clinicians have a lower threshold to review, admit and consider multidisciplinary escalation in women from a BAME background.
- Reaching out and reassuring pregnant BAME women with tailored communications.
- Ensuring hospitals discuss vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy with all women. Women low in vitamin D may be more vulnerable to coronavirus so women with darker skin or those who always cover their skin when outside may be at particular risk of vitamin D insufficiency and should consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D all year.
- Ensuring all providers record on maternity information systems the ethnicity of every woman, as well as other risk factors, such as living in a deprived area (postcode), co-morbidities, BMI and aged 35 years or over, to identify those most at risk of poor outcomes.
Of the steps, Dunkley-Bent, said: We know that pregnant women from a BAME background are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19 compared to white women, which is why we’re helping midwives take sensible extra steps to protect mum and baby.
'While Public Health England is continuing to assess and advise on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on ethnic groups, I want to make sure that the NHS is doing everything we can to reach out, reassure and support those pregnant women and new mums most at risk.
'The pandemic outbreak has caused some people to worry about seeking help from the NHS, and there has been a decrease in attendances for some NHS services.
Warning signs like unusual foetal movement have also been dismissed by some women in fear that going to hospital is of greater risk to them, with local services today asked to deliver outreach programmes for at-risk communities.
'Understandably, the pandemic has caused pregnant women increased anxiety over the last couple of months, but I want to make sure that every pregnant woman in England knows that the NHS is here for them – if you have any doubt whatsoever that something isn’t right with you or your baby, contact your midwife immediately.'
Longer term, the NHS has committed to ensuring that, by 2024, women from a BAME background will receive care from the same midwife pre, post and during birth. (This is shown to reduce early births, as well as the need for intervention during labour.)
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