“I could tell that the lady was judging me, you know?”
Disadvantage during pregnancy and early motherhood usually has its roots in women’s previous experiences, and the inequalities that shape their lives. We know that women who have experienced trauma and abuse in the past are more likely to face a lifetime of mental and physical health problems, poverty, discrimination and continued abuse. Inequalities resulting from factors such as race, gender, immigration status and poverty reinforce the difficulties women face.
These disadvantages have a huge impact on women’s experiences of maternity care and their outcomes. Research has shown much higher maternal mortality rates among Black and Asian women and women from other groups that experience racism; as well as women known to social services; women experiencing multiple disadvantage; and those living in the most deprived areas (MBRRACE 2020).
The right support can make a big difference to the outcomes of mothers and their babies. However, women are often stigmatised, their needs misunderstood and their voices unheard by service providers and policy makers. We believe these inequalities must be tackled with urgency, and we have an ambitious vision of the way systems should change to do this.
Specialist support should be available for every woman facing acute disadvantage and deprivation throughout pregnancy and early motherhood. This should be delivered seamlessly across all systems and services in partnership with the voluntary sector. Birth Companions’ work is turning that vision into reality.