Bumps to overcome as 'call the midwife early campaign' is born

Date published: 15 November 2022

Medics need to close a “breach of trust” if a new drive to save the lives of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) babies is to be successful.

That is the view of Oldham GP and national women’s health expert Dr Anita Sharma, who says the would-be mothers are still putting their faith in family and old traditions rather than accessing maternity services the instant they know they’re pregnant.

Speaking following the launch of a new website and toolkit, Dr Sharma said that this divide between BAME women and doctors could have profound consequences, including stillbirth and death from pernicious conditions like Sickle Cell.

“Studies have shown that these communities are at far greater risk than their white counterparts,” said Dr Sharma.

“Whilst better information on services and encouragement to come forward earlier is beneficial, the answer is not as simple as that.

"The quality of midwifery is still dependent on post code and a misunderstanding of culture and communication has resulted in mums-to-be turning to their own parents and grandparents for advice.

"I am sure they receive compassion - but professional healthcare? No.”

As if to illustrate this misunderstanding, Dr Sharma pointed to the fact that the new www.pregnancyscreninggm.co.uk is online.

Many people from the BAME community are from poorer areas and therefore have no access to the internet.

“We are not talking about massive changes here,” added Dr Sharma.

"Just a little more sensitivity and understanding.

"The whole pregnancy journey should be about choice and there are women who may have concerns about being seen by a male.

"We need to work through that, and whilst most of my colleagues are I believe sympathetic, some need to understand the emotional pain of miscarriage, for example.”

Dr Sharma set-up her own charity a year ago to address some of the misunderstandings and outright prejudices all women face when dealing with certain processes within our health service.

Endometriosis Awareness North campaigns for quicker diagnosis of a condition that can leave a woman completely debilitated and devote more resource into finding a cure.

She expressed despair that while neighbouring Cheshire and Merseyside had a plethora of maternity choice campaigns (some aimed directly at BAME) communities, while Greater Manchester had none.

“Sometimes I think we forget that while pregnancy should be a beautiful experience, it can be fraught with problems, and may both define a child’s health and its forthcoming relationship with mother,” said Dr Sharma.

“From the choice of where to have baby to what bloods and scans and checks need to be done, women of all backgrounds must be able to have a say.

"More importantly, they need to know what is available and where.

"I applaud this campaign, but it is only making baby steps in addressing the health inequalities women face.”

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