Black Women In England Experience More Serious Birth Complications, According To New Data ...

Pregnant Black women in England are six times more likely to suffer from preeclampsia and other serious birth complications when compared to their white counterparts, according to data from the National Health Service.

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Black women in England are up to six times more likely to experience some kind of serious birth complications during their hospital delivery when compared to their white counterparts, according to a data analysis performed by The Guardian of figures from the National Health Service.  

The data from the NHS is from 2022 and 2023, and showed that Black women made up 26% of those who experienced preeclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension during their delivery, despite the fact that they also only made up for 5% of all deliveries in England. 

These numbers mean Black women are about six times more likely to experience preeclampsia when compared to white women in England. White women make up about 70% of all deliveries in England. 

Professor Asma Khalil is the vice president for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and recently stated “structural racism and the unconscious bias of healthcare professionals could be a factor contributing to the disparity,” according to The Guardian.

“The figures are striking and demonstrate inequality, but unfortunately I’m not really surprised. We know that women from a black background have a higher risk of pre-eclampsia and hypertension.”

Preeclampsia specifically is a serious pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, and impacts around 1-5% of pregnant women in the UK. Worldwide, it affects about 6% of all pregnancies and causes around 500,000 fetal deaths and 70,000 maternal deaths each year. 

In the UK, Black women are four times more likely to die either during their pregnancy or childbirth when compared to their white counterparts, and Black babies are twice as likely to be stillborn. 

Khalil said that we must address these current inequalities that exist in birthing complication rates, specifically emphasizing why some ethnicities have higher rates of these conditions and complications that impact so many people every year. 

“Why this is the case is multifactorial, and I strongly believe that in order to find the solution, you also need that multidisciplinary approach,” Khalil said

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“Healthcare professionals and doctors cannot fix the problem on their own, we need to work with public health doctors, policymakers, and the government need to prioritize and invest on the issue.”

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“These stark figures highlight the continuing inequalities facing Black women at every stage of the birthing journey. With Black mothers 3.7 times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth, the government must urgently set a binding target to end this maternal mortality disparity and improve health outcomes for Black women across maternity care,” said Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the Labour MP and chair of black maternal health all party parliamentary group. 

Dr Anita Banerjee, an obstetric physician with expertise in high risk pregnancies, said: “We say that the NHS is free at the point of contact and that everybody should get the same, by why is it that if you’re from a black background you’re risk of complications seem to be higher, particularly in regards to maternity for pre-eclampsia.”

“What we saw during the pandemic is the importance of our cultural competency and understanding of the women that we serve, and also secondly them trusting us. We can’t stop everybody getting preeclampsia but there are certain people who have a prior propensity,” Dr. Banerjee stated

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS is fully committed to ensuring all women receive high-quality care before, during and after their pregnancy – all local maternity and neonatal systems now have action plans in place to help ensure care is equitable for all mothers, babies and families, with staff having access to inclusive clinical training aids to support care for women and babies with Black or dark skin.

As these figures demonstrate, further progress is needed, which is why the NHS is investing £10m this year to enable targeted action against inequalities, including providing more holistic support for women living in the 10% most deprived areas of England, who we know are more likely to experience adverse outcomes during pregnancy and birth.”