Patient safety

29.06.20

NHS rolls out additional support for pregnant BAME women

After new analysis showed pregnant black women were eight times more likely and Asian women four times as likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19, the NHS is rolling out additional support for pregnant women of a Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) background.

Given evidence of the heightened risk to BAME expectant mums, urgent action is being taken in England including increasing uptake of Vitamin D and undertaking outreach in neighbourhoods and communities in their area.

There has long been evidence of additional maternity risks for women from ethnic minority backgrounds, with maternal mortality rates significantly higher compared with white women.

Now, research carried out by Oxford University has shown 55% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus are from a BAME background, even though they represent only a quarter of the births in England and Wales.

In response, England’s most senior midwife, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, has written to all maternity units in the country calling on them to take four specific actions to minimise avoidable Covid-19 risk for BAME women and their babies.

The steps include:

  1. 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.
  2. Reaching out and reassuring pregnant BAME women with tailored communications.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Ms 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.

“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.”

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