RCM seeks to widen the lens in midwifery education to address colonialism in maternity

on 28 March 2023 RCM Maternity Services MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwifery

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has launched a ground breaking new toolkit to help educators improve diversity in midwifery education.

The new toolkit – the first of its kind - has been co-created by the RCM, midwifery educators, students and service users to eliminate the continuing influence of colonialism within midwifery education, which can disadvantage students and put pregnant women at risk. The toolkit addresses multiple issues, including encouraging student recruitment from diverse backgrounds and ensuring the curriculum educates students to care for women and babies from non-white backgrounds.

“We began this project because we want to do our part in tackling all forms of prejudice within midwifery and maternity care. This toolkit will help us do just that, from the moment students apply for university. It will help midwifery educators design a curriculum that supports people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. It will also provide guidance to students to support them to call out bias and prejudice when they see it,” said the RCM’s Head of Education, Heather Bower.

Ensuring the midwifery curriculum trains midwives to provide outstanding and safe care for all backgrounds comes at a vital time. A recent MBRRACE report in maternal outcomes for Black and Asian women in the UK showed stark findings: Black women are nearly four times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth and up to a year postnatally than white women; and women from South Asian backgrounds are almost twice as likely to die.

Raising awareness of diversity and inclusion in midwifery education is a key element of the toolkit. The RCM hopes the new toolkit will empower midwifery educators to challenge colonial perspectives in all aspects of teaching. In addition, they will be able to engage in more critical conversations about practice to improve maternity care outcomes of those from diverse backgrounds.

Heather added: “When we talk about decolonising the curriculum, we mean actively learning from the diversity of the women in our care, rather than trying to modify traditional midwifery education which is based mainly on the experiences of white women and babies. Many of the current learning resources do not support midwives to provide appropriate care for women and babies from many other backgrounds. We live in a multicultural world and we need to widen the lens of midwifery education so that it’s relevant for all backgrounds, races and religions. Crucially that means helping universities to widen the recruitment of students from diverse background into the profession which is a vital element of this toolkit.

“We know there is much more that needs to be done and we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. However, we have taken this important first step, and we can now encourage people to think differently and make the appropriate changes where they can. This is one tool that will hopefully help change the narrative and crucially result in better and safer maternity care for Black, Asian and minority ethnic women.”

The full aims of the toolkit are to:

  • To raise awareness of all forms of racism and promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion in midwifery education.
  • Increase understanding of midwifery educators, midwives, maternity support workers and students about decolonising education.
  • To ensure recruitment strategies provide opportunity for students from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
  • To educate midwives and students about differences in health assessments, conditions and experiences for minority women and babies and to erase misconceptions about race.
  • To promote equal assessment strategies for all students.
  • To strengthen in practice for global majority students.

This work was inspired by the RCM Student Midwife Forum (SMF) that ran an online seminar in January 2022 on decolonising the curriculum and later that year the RCM put forward a successful motion on decolonising midwifery education at the Trade Unions Congress Black Workers Conference.

The full toolkit and more information can be found here.


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.