COVID-19: NHS boosts support for pregnant BAME women

Cllr Pauline George

A BAME Councillor who worked on the NHS frontline as an intensive care unit nurse has urged fellow councillors to actively share information about the heightened risks facing pregnant BAME women and the additional support that the NHS is providing to protect those women.

Lambeth Councillor Pauline George (pictured above), who represents Herne Hill ward and is a trained anaesthetic and theatre recovery nurse, worked on the Intensive Care Unit at Lewisham Hospital at the beginning of the corona virus pandemic in March and April of this year. Speaking today, she said: ‘We must ensure that we increase information sharing about the reality of Covid-19 within the communities we represent’.

Her comments follow the announcement that the Chief Midwifery Officer for England, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, has written to all maternity units in the country calling on them to take four specific actions which will minimise the additional risk of COVID-19 for BAME women and their babies.

The four actions are:
1.Increasing support of at-risk pregnant women – e.g. making sure clinicians have a lower threshold to review, admit and consider multidisciplinary escalation in women from a BAME background.

2.Reaching out and reassuring pregnant BAME women with tailored communications.

3. Ensuring hospitals discuss vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy with all women. Women low in vitamin D may be more vulnerable to coronavirus so women with darker skin or those who always cover their skin when outside may be at particular risk of vitamin D insufficiency and should consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D all year.

4. Ensuring all providers record on maternity information systems the ethnicity of every woman, as well as other risk factors, such as living in a deprived area (postcode), co-morbidities, BMI and aged 35 years or over, to identify those most at risk of poor outcomes.

Cllr George added that while she ‘totally endorses’ the actions outlined by the Chief Midwifery Officer, the information gathered and recorded on maternity information systems must be ‘used properly to avoid creating further discriminatory factors’ against these women.

Announcing the additional support for pregnant BAME women, NHS England stated:

‘Women from ethnic minority backgrounds have long been known to face additional maternity risks, with maternal mortality rates significantly higher than for white women.

But now research from Oxford University shows that 55% of the pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are from a BAME background, even though they only make up a quarter of the births in England and Wales.

Further analysis of the research indicates that Asian women are four times more likely than white women to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 during pregnancy, while Black women are eight times more likely.’