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Trade unionists urged to ‘become part of the solution’ to end inequalities for black mothers

Delegates at a TUC women’s conference fringe meeting heard from mothers who said they had been neglected when accessing maternal care

by Bethany Rielly

TRADE unionists were urged today to “become part of the solution” to end inequalities for black mothers. 

Delegates at a TUC women’s conference fringe meeting heard from mothers who said they had been neglected when accessing maternal care.

Sandra Igwe, founder of The Motherhood Group, an advocacy group aimed at sharing black mothers’ experiences, told delegates that she had been left “emotionally scarred” after giving birth to her first daughter. 

She said her concerns were “dismissed” and “not taken seriously” by healthcare professionals and that she was denied pain relief — an experience she said black mothers are more likely to face. 

Ms Igwe said that training is needed for health professionals to improve understanding of the black maternal experience and to tackle harmful stereotypes.

Tinuke Awe, founder of the “fivexmore” campaign to reduce childbirth-related deaths in black mothers, said she was diagnosed late with preeclampsia — a potentially fatal condition — after her concerns were repeatedly ignored. 

Black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white women, according to the latest MBBRACE report investigating maternal deaths.

As well as facing a higher mortality rate related to pregnancy, conference heard how black mothers are at greater risk of mental health problems following birth, and of their babies dying in the womb or shortly afterwards. 

Covid-19 has also had a disproportionate impact on black pregnant women. A study by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System found that they are eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital with coronavirus than white pregnant women. 

Ms Awe called for the NHS to implement targets to close the gap.

Royal College of Midwives head of equality and safety Zeenath Uddin said it was “disheartening” that “year-on-year there has been very little improvement in terms of reducing these figures.”

She said: “We need to all acknowledge that there is actually a problem, and once we acknowledge that there is a problem, we all need to become part of the solution.”

The meeting was held on the final day of the TUC women’s conference, focusing on the unequal impact of Covid-19 on women. 

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