‘Urgent action needed’ to reduce Black and Asian stillbirths and neonatal deaths, says RCM

on 14 December 2023 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Government NHS NHS England NMC - Nursing and Midwifery Council Midwives Midwifery Workforce

The highest stillbirth rates continue to impact black and Asian women and those living in the most deprived communities where social inequalities are entrenched. That’s according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it responds to the latest MBRRACE-UK State of the Nation (SoN) report on perinatal mortality.

The RCM says while it's positive to focus on quality of care, it’s all too clear that Black and Asian babies are at greater risk of stillbirth or neonatal death compared to white babies. The College is calling for a multi-agency approach to improve maternity outcomes for Black and Asian women as well as those living in the most deprived areas.

Commenting on the findings, RCM’s Quality and Standards Advisor Lia Brigante said:

“Although pregnancy and childbirth in the UK continue to be safe for most women and their babies, much more needs to be done to address health inequalities and reduce stillbirth and neonatal death among Black and Asian babies.

“Black and Asian women experiencing stillbirth or neonatal death are twice as likely to live in more deprived areas. This has an impact on access to services, but only tells part of the story. Clinicians, including midwives and obstetricians, should receive better education to be aware of the increased risk for Black and Asian women. As well as ensuring they receive the appropriate assessment and specialist care, relatively simple measures like improvements in access to translation services and provision of personalised care and support plans could have made a positive difference in the outcomes for these women and babies.”

The key findings of the report are:

  • When care records were reviewed it found major or significant issues within antenatal care provision for 83% of Black women and 73% of Asian women compared with 69% of white women.
  • Improvements in care were needed for 59% of Asian women and 49% of white women
  • For Asian women there was frequent inaccurate and inconsistent recording of citizenship and ethnicity which impacted the ability to undertake a needs assessment and plan personalised care.

“Despite the huge efforts from midwives and the wider maternity team more action is needed nationally, and a multi-agency approach is needed to address the wider inequalities faced by Black and Asian women. There needs to be more joint working between clinicians so that issues are spotted earlier, more finding and education and specialist midwives to deal with the issues faced by Black and Asian women. Crucially the Government needs do much more to tackle the socio-economic deprivation that have contributed to these stillbirths and neonatal deaths.”

 The full report can be found here.

The RCM has produced specialist guidelines on how to care for vulnerable migrant women and supporting midwives to address the needs of women experiencing severe and multiple disadvantages.