Black Maternal Health Week — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 14th September 2021.

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Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham 9:30 am, 14th September 2021

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered Black Maternal Health Week.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I am thankful that we are able to have this debate, which follows from an e-petition debate that was held in April after the petition received over 180,000 signatures. MPs were given the opportunity for the first time to debate a petition calling for improvements to maternal mortality rates and healthcare for black women in the UK.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Tinuke and Clo from Five X More, as well as Elsie Gayle, whose tireless campaigning efforts have forced this issue on to the agenda. They have not only provided us with the opportunity to discuss the issue but given a voice to many black women who have experienced a traumatic pregnancy or birth and to those families who have lost loved ones.

For too long the statistics had pointed towards a glaring disparity in black maternal health experiences, and for too long nothing was said. We now have a Black Maternal Health Awareness Week, during which we can highlight the disparities and discuss ways in which we can make pregnancy a safe experience for all, regardless of skin colour.

Members will by now be very familiar with the statistics surrounding black maternal healthcare and mortality, but they bear repeating. In the UK, which is one of the safest countries in the world in which to give birth, black women are still four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth. Black women are up to 83% more likely to suffer a near miss during pregnancy. Black babies have a 121% increased risk of stillbirth and a 50% increased risk of neonatal death. Miscarriage rates are 40% higher in black women, and black ethnicity is regarded as a risk factor for miscarriage. Black mothers are twice as likely to give birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

The situation for women and birthing people of mixed heritage and Asian heritage, unfortunately, is not much better, with those of mixed heritage being three times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth, and Asian women two times more likely. Asian babies also have a 55% increased risk of stillbirth and a 66% increased risk of neonatal mortality.

However, we all know that racial disparities in health do not begin, and certainly do not end, there. Despite these statistics, despite the number of reports and studies that have been produced in the last year and before, and despite being aware of the glaring disparities in maternal healthcare, we still have no target to end them.