Deeming said Onwuka had been considered a high-risk patient because of her age — lei era 37; her ethnicity — she was a Black British citizen, who was born in Nigeria; and because she had lost twins during a previous pregnancy.
Onwuka was found to have developed an amniotic fluid embolism
), a catastrophic complication of pregnancy in which amniotic fluid or other debris enters the mother’s bloodstream
, Deeming said
. This can lead to fatal reactions, including cardiac arrest or excessive bleeding
. According to one study, those from
“Black or other minority ethnic groups
” are more likely to die or have permanent neurological injury from the condition.
Blake took the step of issuing the hospital and the General Medical Council with a
“report to prevent future deaths
” over the handling of her care
, warning of
“a lack of leadership and overview on Ms
. Onwuka’s care.
Deeming said that: “Even though AFE is a rare condition, there are national guidelines and all hospitals should have clear plans and training in place for such situations given the data.” Per esempio, Blake discovered that there did not need to be two consultants present to conduct the hysterectomy that could have saved Onwuka’s life.
“How can we prevent this happening to another family when we know that ethnicity and the other risk factors mean [AFE complications]… can be prevented,” Deeming asked. The family is waiting for a response from the hospital.
In una dichiarazione alla CNN, the hospital said it had been “greatly saddened by the death of Mrs Onwuka, and we would like to offer our sincerest condolences to her family for their loss.”
“As there is an ongoing legal claim, we are not able to comment further at this time,” ha aggiunto.
The MBBRACE-UK report
, which charts maternal deaths in England found that between 2016 e 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.
Such differences have existed since MBBRACE began tracking maternal deaths in
2014, covering the
2009 per 2012 periodo, e likely long before
. 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.
The issue gained prominence last June, when Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters demanded a reckoning for racial injustices, at a time when Black people and members of other minority ethnic groups were being disproportionately affected by Covid-19 .
Nel mese di settembre, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to commit to an investigation into Black maternal mortality
— saying it was an example of the structural inequalities that
” in the UK
Constellation of biases
The outcomes for Black people are similar in the US. 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
(Centro per la prevenzione e il controllo delle malattie).
Experts have noted that the racial disparity in maternal deaths in the US remains
, regardless of the mother’s income and education level
There is no simple answer for why such inequality exists in the UK, according to Marian Knight, the MBBRACE report co-author and professor of maternal and child population health at the University of Oxford. ”Potentially, one of the explanations is that there is a constellation of biases,” from structural biases around ethnicity, to a lack of culturally appropriate care, o, in alcuni casi, complicating factors around immigration status.
In cima a quello, lei disse: “You’ve got the added bias of being female,” since women’s healthcare and research is not as well funded as other areas.
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.
”There are too many different reasons and we don’t even know why
— we need to get to that point
,” said Awe from FivexMore.
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.
Another reason may be that Black people are more likely to develop conditions such as high blood pressure
, or to be obese than other ethnic groups
. Obesity increases a person’s risk of developing complications during pregnancy
, including high-blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
The differences in overall health and chronic illnesses between Black and White parents does not adequately explain the high proportion of poor outcomes
, say some health practitioners
. Social determinants such as implicit biases
, socioeconomic status
, a person’s physical environment
, or levels of stress
, also play a part
A lot of conditions could be driven by social determinants, Hannah King, a midwife who is part of the Midwives Against Racism collective, ha detto alla CNN.
She noted the
,” pubblicato in 1992 in the National Library of Medicine
, which described conditions faced by Black Americans
. It proposes that racial disparities could be bad for one’s health
— that social and economic disadvantage can lead to an earlier onset of disease and other health problems
, lei dice.
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
, ha detto alla CNN.
The annual MBRRACE report does not include details on the immigration status of the non-UK citizens who died. But according to the latest report, the highest proportion of deaths among non-UK citizens came from people born in Africa (36%).
The overall maternal death rate for those born in the UK was 8 fuori da 100,000 mothers. That rate was 7 fuori da 100,000 for mothers born in Nigeria, 27 fuori da 100,000 for mothers born in Bangladesh and 49 su 100,000 for mothers born in India.
The British government has introduced fees for some migrants accessing NHS services
. Even though the law says women should not be refused maternity care
, the charges
— part of what is known as the “hostile environment” for asylum seekers and migrants
— effectively deter them from attending maternity care
, Bragg said
It is a view shared by Knight, who says sometimes hospitals are unable to address the specific needs of the vulnerable — such as lacking an interpreter for those who do not speak English — which could lead to them dying from preventable causes.
This year’s MBRRACE report notes that a number of women who died “were Black or other minority ethnicity women who did not have English as a first language.” The language barrier “seems to have been magnified as the women became more unwell, because of their inability to express themselves or misinterpretation by healthcare workers of different cultural expressions of illness,” ha aggiunto.
A growing body of US research suggests the biases of health professionals play a further role in these bad statistics
. Studies have shown that Black patients are in some situations prescribed less pain medication than their White counterparts
. And a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed unequal treatment in part to
“enduring racist cultural beliefs and practices.
Nel Regno Unito, un 2013 studia found minority women reporting a poorer overall experience of maternity care compared to White women
Racial bias “both implicit or unconscious and unintentional, can hinder medical consultations, [e] negatively influence treatment options,” ultimately resulting in Black women avoiding treatment,” Dott. Christine Ekechi, an obstetrician and co-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ race equality taskforce, told CNN in a statement.
That’s a view shared by Sandra Igwe, founder of UK social enterprise the Motherhood Group, who says she has heard a number of “horror stories” of Black people struggling to be heard or believed while receiving care.
During the birth of her first child, Igwe said she felt she was callously treated by midwives even though she told them repeatedly that she was in agonizing pain from her contractions. At one point she said she began vomiting, ma “all I could remember was that they were more frustrated with me for expressing my agony,” lei disse.
, NHS England’s Chief Midwifery Officer
, told Parliament last July that the NHS had much to do
“in relation to stereotyping
,” aggiungendo quello “every health professional
[dovrebbero] think about unconscious bias and think how that might influence the consultation with women and their families.
King says those biases exist right from the beginning of doctors’ formazione, in medical school, dove “everything is on White mannequins or textbooks or White patients, so you can’t recognize things like low blood oxygen saturations or cyanosis on darker skin tones,” lei disse.
While giving evidence, Dunkley-Bent told the parliamentary committee that there is no national target to reduce the poor maternal outcomes for Black women.
When asked by CNN why no such targets had been set, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have launched a new oversight group to monitor how the health service is tackling maternal inequalities.”
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.”
But change is not happening fast enough, say campaigners.
Cavaliere, the report’s co-author
, pointed out that for every death
, Là siamo 100 more women who are severely ill.
“I just don’t feel like enough is being done,” Awe said. “I now have a daughter, I’ve got friends, I’ve got sisters, I’ve got people I care about who will one day [have children]. Just by virtue of being Black, are they more likely to die?”