The Health Foundation has awarded a grant for a project looking at whether changes to maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic have affected existing inequalities.
In the UK, there are significant inequalities in maternity care and outcomes, with Black women 4 times more likely to die than white women during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period (MBRRACE 2020 (PDF)). Giving birth in the UK should be as safe as it could be for all women irrespective of where they live or where they come from.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been changes to the way maternity care is delivered. Care provision has had to be modified and maternity units have faced staffing shortages. The effects of these changes on maternity outcomes have not yet been measured, and it is unclear whether these changes have widened or narrowed existing inequalities.
Aim of project
This research project will use data that is routinely collected during the course of maternity care to identify changes to outcomes for women and babies during the pandemic, and whether these were related to particular changes in maternity services offered. The project will also gather the insights from women from various backgrounds, who have given birth in the UK before or during the pandemic. The project has recruited 25 women to form part of a women’s reference group. The group will have its first meeting meet towards the end of May 2021 and will play a significant part throughout the whole of the project.
The study will then identify any maternity units where changes in practice during the pandemic narrowed existing gaps in outcomes between women from different ethnic groups, or units where the impact on existing inequalities was as small as possible. Researchers will then interview healthcare professionals and representatives of women using these maternity services to understand how care is organised and delivered in these units.
The final research will be used to provide recommendations on how the quality and safety of maternity care can be improved, and how it can ensure that all women, irrespective of their background or place of residence, have access to safe maternity care.
The project runs for one year and is due to be completed in Summer 2022.