NHS England has today started rolling out additional support for pregnant women from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – who are, studies show, at heightened risk of suffering complications of coronavirus infection.
Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, England’s most senior midwife, has written to all maternity units1 in the country calling on them to take 4 specific actions to help minimise the additional risk of COVID-19 for BAME women and their babies:
- Increase support to at-risk pregnant women, including lowering the threshold for hospital admission for pregnant women from a BAME background
- Reach out and reassure pregnant BAME women with ‘tailored communications’
- Ensure health professionals discuss vitamin D supplements and nutrition in pregnancy with all pregnant women. (Women low in vitamin D may be more vulnerable to coronavirus, and women with darker skin or those who always cover their skin when outside may be at particular risk of vitamin D insufficiency.)
- Ensure there are records on maternity information systems of the ethnicity of every pregnant woman, as well as information about other risk factors, such as age, BMI and living in a deprived area
“I want to make sure that the NHS is doing everything we can to reach out, reassure and support those pregnant women and new mums most at risk,” says Jacqueline.
Analysis published earlier this month in the British Medical Journal2 shows that pregnant black women are 8 times more likely, and Asian women are 4 times more likely, than pregnant white women to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
This comes on top of earlier research from Oxford University3 showing that that 55% of the pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are from a BAME background – even though the birth statistics in England Wales suggest only a quarter of pregnant women are from a BAME background.
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1. NHS England online news
2. Characteristics and outcomes of pregnant women admitted to hospital with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in the UK: national population based cohort study. Knight, M et al. BMJ https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2107. Published 08 June 2020
3. RCOG and RCM respond to UKOSS study of more than 400 pregnant women hospitalised with coronavirus. 11 May 2020.