Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

‘We must all play a part in the solution’ Birthrights responds to MBRRACE-UK Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care report for 2022

A report published by MBRRACE-UK today (10th November) has revealed the continuous and persistent stark disparity in maternal mortality rates between women from Black and Asian aggregated ethnic groups and White women.

Maternal mortality rates, although showing a small improvement from last year, were still found to be almost four times higher for Black women, almost twice as high for Asian women and 1.3 times higher for mixed ethnicity women.

Tracey Fletcher, Birthrights’ Interim Chief Executive said:

The MBRRACE-UK report shows yet again the stark and persistent disparity in maternal mortality rates between women from Black and Asian aggregated ethnic groups and White women, with only a marginal improvement in the statistics compared to last year.

‘Findings from our inquiry into racial injustice in maternity care
and in our subsequent report Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies revealed the basic human rights to safety, dignity, respect and equality in pregnancy and childbirth of Black and Brown women and birthing people are not being protected, respected, or upheld. Our inquiry also heard how previous life experiences – racist attitudes, microaggressions, dismissal of concerns, breakdown of trust – can affect interactions with maternity services.

‘The response to our report, particularly from key stakeholders in the maternity sector, has been overwhelming. There is so much promise, good intention, and a genuine desire to drive forward change. But we need to see action, not just words. We are calling everyone involved in the delivery of maternity care, to understand deeply and reflect on the findings of our inquiry, and the systemic, multi-layered discrimination against pregnant women and birthing people which prevents them receiving the best care before, during and after pregnancy.

We must all play a part in the solution – whether through advocacy, recognising the impacts of our own bias, validating experiences and concerns, or simply being the one person to listen and act.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • The rate of maternal mortality has risen overall, even when deaths from COVID-19 are excluded
  • Suicide remains the leading cause of direct maternal deaths in the first year after birth – 40% of deaths within the year after pregnancy were from mental health-related causes, and very few women who died by suicide in 2020 had a formal mental health diagnosis
  • In 2020, women were three times more likely to die by suicide during or up to six weeks after the end of pregnancy in 2020 compared to 2017-19
  • 1 in 9 women who died had severe and multiple disadvantage

Download report Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies

The safety of hundreds of women and birthing people from Black and Brown and mixed ethnicity backgrounds is being put at risk due to systemic racism within UK maternity care. Download our inquiry’s report.

Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.