Pregnant black women are 5 times more likely to die and we need to know why. According to the Mbrrace UK (2018) report (a report that looks into maternal mortality and deaths), black women in the U.K. have a five times higher risk of dying in pregnancy in comparison to a white woman.
We caught up with Tinuke, co-founder of the #FiveXMore campaign to learn about this unacceptable statistic. Read on to find out more and for details on how you can support the campaign.
What made you start the #FiveXMore campaign?
We started the #FiveXmore campaign as a response to the MBRRACE 2018 report which highlighted that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth in comparison to a white woman. I (Tinuke) run a company called Mums and Tea where we run fun events and meet ups for new mothers and found that a lot of women echoed my own birth experience with my first son. It wasn’t a pleasant one. A lot of women I spoke to anecdotally had terrible experiences when giving birth as well as the feeling of not being listened to or given pain medication on time as a result. Also, looking back at historical data, we can see that the statistics are not new and in fact black women have been at a higher risk of dying since as early as 1994. It was very shocking to see that nothing seemed to have been done and the number unfortunately kept rising. So, I decided to join forces with my friend Rebecca who runs Prosperitys and supports pregnant black and South Asian women to create the Five X More campaign. We aim to spread the word about these statistics; we currently have a petition for the government to make a change to black women’s health care and also have our 5 recommended steps that pregnant women can take through pregnancy and labour.
Your campaign aims to address the reasons why black women are so much more likely to die during pregnancy than white women – but what do you think those reasons are?
We can only speculate these reasons, as there has been no specific research done into why this is the case for black women, which is why our petition calls for specific action from the government. It would be useful to know if there are any health conditions that we are more likely to have so that can be addressed first, however, after speaking to many black women and health professionals another reason given for this disparity is structural and institutional racism within the NHS which would call for the appropriate conversations and training for those involved in women healthcare.
How was your personal experience with healthcare during your own pregnancies?
My experience was that I was induced due to the late detection of preeclampsia with my son. I was told that I couldn’t leave the hospital without having the baby and that it would take at least 24 hours for the pessary to start my labour going. My labour started a few hours after that and when I told the midwife, she brushed me off and didn’t check me saying it was the early stages and I should not worry. A few hours later, after I was in a lot of pain and vomiting everywhere, my waters broke and when the midwife checked me over I was 8cm dilated to her surprise. I wasn’t offered any pain relief as the window of opportunity was missed. I was rushed to the delivery suite where I had my son an hour later, but I just didn’t feel like I was listened to or that my pain was taken seriously. Sadly, my story is not a unique one and many black women feel this way.
What can pregnant women do if they feel like they aren’t being listened to by their healthcare providers?
Our five steps that we recommend for pregnant women are:
1) Speak up. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t hold back, say how you feel.
2) Find an advocate for you who can speak on your behalf if you can’t. This can be a friend or a trusted member of your family who knows about your pregnancy and about labour and can speak on your behalf if you can’t speak.
3) Seek a second opinion. If you are not happy with how you are being treated by a particular midwife or doctor, or you would like to get someone else to read over your results or notes you can ask for a second opinion.
4) Trust your gut. You know your body better than anyone. If you feel like something is wrong, do not allow anyone to brush your feelings to the side. Speak up.
5) Do your research on your pregnancy and labour, via trusted websites.
What do you hope to achieve with the campaign?
Ultimately, we hope to make a change to the statistics and reduce them as they have been rising over the years and it is sad to see. Being pregnant is a scary time as it is, but this can be even more so if you are a black woman. This is unacceptable. We hope to keep empowering women with our recommended steps and to get health professionals to start listening to our concerns more.
How can we support your work?
You can sign the petition, take the #fivexmore selfie on social media, donate via our website www.fivexmore.com and continue to have these discussions to continue to raise awareness.