A group of campaigners and lawyers have launched an urgent inquiry exploring the possibility that alleged systemic racism in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is impacting maternal health outcomes for ethnic minority women.

The inquiry, launched on Monday, is being organised by the nonprofit Birthrights, a human-rights oriented campaigning group advocating for better experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, and comes after research revealed significant racial disparities in the numbers of women dying in childbirth.

The findings, published in December 2020 by a coalition of health researchers called MBRRACE-UK (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risks through Audits and Confidential Enquiries), found that Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth compared to white women.

Meanwhile women from Asian and mixed minority ethnic backgrounds face twice the risk of dying in childbirth than white women, the report revealed.

The lead author of the report, Marian Knight, professor of maternal and child population health at the University of Oxford, said in January that while deaths in childbirth are uncommon in Britain, the difference could be a sign of racial disparity in the numbers of women experiencing serious problems during pregnancy.

“Maternal mortality is uncommon so while there is an unacceptable racial disparity, even for Black women the rate is low,” she said. “But what is significant is the statistics are likely to be a marker of similar disparities in severe pregnancy complications and what we call ‘near misses’.”

“We want to understand the stories behind the statistics,” she continued. “To examine how people can be discriminated against due to their race and to identify ways this inequity can be redressed.”

Read the full article about the effects of systemic racism in childbirth by Helen Lock at Global Citizen.