Improve midwifery education about skin colour to make maternity care safer says RCM

By RCM on 08 May 2022 NHS Midwives RCM Maternity Services Safety Maternity Safety Women Race matters Equality and Diversity Education BAME Pregnancy

The lack of teaching about darker skin tones in midwifery education could be exacerbating racial inequalities in maternity care, says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The College is calling for improvements in midwifery education so that student midwives are taught how to better assess women and babies with darker skin tones. The RCM’s call comes in a motion to ‘decolonise the midwifery curriculum’ to the TUC Black Workers’ Conference today, and is it’s part of its Race Matters initiative to improve maternity care and outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic women.

Skin examination is an important part of assessing the health of mothers and new-born babies. Traditionally, teaching has been based on lighter skin colours. This is starting to change in student midwifery education and in ongoing training for midwives, but the situation is patchy across the UK. This could leave midwives without the skills needed to accurately assess women and babies with darker skin colours says the RCM.

Jane Bekoe, Head of Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the RCM, said:

“We must take every step we can to tackle the racism and inequality in UK maternity services. Reducing the care disparities that exist must be at the forefront of everyone’s agenda and that has to start at beginning of midwives’ education so that they are aware of how to assess women with darker skin.

“This is just one small step we can begin with that has a huge opportunity to change the narrative and most crucially could improve pregnancy and maternal outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic women. These efforts must also travel right through the theory and practice of all midwives. Improving colour awareness will lead to improved and safer maternity care.  Much more of course needs to be done across society and in the NHS, but this is a small but important step that will pay dividends and move us towards delivering the level of care and safety that these women should rightly expect.”

Inequalities in maternity services are shown in the stark statistics on mortality rates for Black and Asian women. They are four times more likely and two times more likely respectively to die in and around pregnancy than white women.  Asian infants are also three time more likely to die in their first year than white infants.

The RCM also continues its efforts to improve care for migrant women by contributing to a motion from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy on migrant workers’ rights. The two organisations call for the same access to NHS services for migrant workers as UK workers. This follows the publication of RCM guidance on caring for migrant women in February.



To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]. 


Notes to Editors: 



The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team.  We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team.