Two mums design hospital resources to help reduce risk of death in childbirth for Black women

  • ITV News reporter Katharine Walker has been investigating health inequalities for Black women and birthing people in the UK.

Two mothers have designed a birth wallet to help reduce the number of Black women and babies dying during childbirth in the UK.

The A4 plastic pouches, which can store and protect hand-held antenatal documents, have vital information about pregnancy and maternity rights printed on the outside.

It comes as research continues to show that black women are four times more likely to die during pregnancy, labour, or postpartum than their white peers.

The Colourful Birth Wallets, made by Tinuke Awe and Clo Abe from the Black maternal health charity Five X More, will initially be given to pregnant women in South East London hospitals.

The women hope the health messages on the wallets will help expectant parents have safer pregnancies.

  • "I felt like more care could have been given" - Tinuke Awe talking to ITV reporter Katharine Walker about her birth experience

It is well documented that maternal outcomes for black women are significantly worse than for their white peers. 

Black women are four times more likely to die during pregnancy, labour, or the postpartum period, and twice as likely to suffer their baby dying in the womb or soon after birth.

They are also at an increased risk of readmission to hospital in the six weeks after giving birth. 

A recent study by Five X More also found that Black women still felt their race, ethnicity, age or class affected their care.

Its survey of over 1,300 Black women and Black mixed mothers found that 43% of women felt discriminated against during their maternity care.

When it came to childbirth, 42% of women said the standard of care they received was poor or very poor and 36% were unhappy with how their concerns during labour were addressed by professionals.

  • "I didn’t know that I could seek a second opinion" - Clo Abe hopes the wallets will help expectant parents have safer pregnancies.

Five X More co-founder, Clo Abe, says the wallets are part of their mission to highlight and change black maternal health outcomes in the UK.

They include six recommendations for women in labour, including: speak up, seek a second opinion, trust your gut feeling, do your research, and document everything.

She explained: "During my own pregnancy experience I didn’t know that I could seek a second opinion, that I should trust my gut or that I could document everything.

"So this is a reminder to say this is what you’re able to do, and this is what your rights are."

Her co-founder, Tinuke Awe, added: "I'm hoping it will make a big difference.

"There are certain things that women may not know, that are included on the wallets. They are aimed at making sure that women have the agency to speak up. "

  • "Women feel ignored" - Sheffield GP Lisa Philip wants to see the birth wallets used across the UK

GP Lisa Philip is keen to see specialist resources for vulnerable and Black women rolled out across the country.

She said: "We shouldn't need to tell people the quality of care they are entitled to, but the sad thing is that these women aren't getting that quality of care.

"The research and feedback from women shows that they feel dehumanised or ignored. So I think these resources will empower women to speak up for themselves and expect the standard of care that everyone else gets."

But Heather Nelson, from the Black Health Initiative, says wider reforms are needed. 

She said: "I understand and I appreciate that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes regarding these findings. But there seems to be an emphasis on educating black women, when I think it should also be about educating the NHS."

In a statement the government told ITV News they are committed to making the NHS "the safest place in the world to give birth, no matter someone’s ethnicity or social background."

“Our Maternity Disparities Taskforce is exploring inequalities in maternity care, focusing on how to tackle unacceptable disparities in quality of care, experiences and outcomes.

“Alongside this, the NHS is investing £6.8 million to tackle maternity inequalities, including working to make sure at least 75% of pregnant Black, Asian and minority ethnic women and women from disadvantaged areas are cared for by the same midwives during and after pregnancy by 2024, which has been shown to improve maternity outcomes.”