What is black maternal health week?

BMHW is celebrated every year 11th - 17th April in the UK.


As the name suggests, Black Maternal Health Week is about raising awareness around the maternal health of Black women.


Did you know that black women are 5 times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth compared to their white counterparts?

Quite a shocking statistical fact. But this is more than just statistics. Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) and its awareness is growing to highlight the challenges and triumphs of being a black mum and their maternal health! 


Here are few reasons why we raise awareness during BMHW:

1. There is a false belief that Black women can handle more pain. This false belief can be traced to racial colonialism.
Since then many studies have shown peoples perceptions (both doctors and lay people) is that Black women feel less pain.

For example, a study done in the US in 2019, suggests White mothers may recieve more pain assessments after childbirth and have better access to painkillers than women from other racial and ethnic backgrounds and groups.

This is an obvious contributing factor to maternal health disparities and a double edged sword. Clinicians are less likely to respond to a black mother in pain, and their portrayal as strong and able to handle anything,  may prevent them from speaking up about the concerns they are facing during their pregnancy and childbirth.  

2. Black women are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have a stillbirth than white women
A research done by Queen Mary University London found that black women are almost twice as likely to experience a stillbirth! Shocking. and according to studies done by NHS England, black infants have a 21% increased risk of stillbirth.

3. Black infants in the UK have a higher rish of neonatal death
A study done in 2018 gave insights on black babies in the UK and had a 67% increased risk of neonatal death compared to other ethinc groups such as white infants. Even infants born to Asian parents had seen a 72% increase in risk of neonatal deaths compared to white infants.

4. 4 in 5 Black women believe the NHS protects them less than their White peers
According to a report by Parliamment’s joint human right committee, 64% of Black people belive the NHS does not adequately protect their health. According to the study, 47% of Black men believe NHS does less to aid them than White peers, and nearly 4 in 5 (78%) of Black women believe the same.


These are four sad and shocking reasons why people campaign to raise awareness about black maternal health! Yes, all lives matter- but its our black babies and mothers that are in need of our support right now.




So what can we do?

1. Collect more data - for example if you fit the criteria, please lend your experience to publications like https://blackballad.co.uk/views-voices/great-black-british-womens-survey who are trying to understand the depth of the problem more

2. Address implicit and unconscious bias within the healthcare system 

3. Educate and support black women on healthy lifestyle practices as well as signs to watch out for in case of emergencies

4. Uplift the voices of those affected so we can shine more media coverage on the issue 

5. Ensure that care and support is reaching black mothers throughout their pregnancy and well after it too!