More than half of pregnant women who were admitted to hospital with coronavirus in the UK were from a black and minority ethnic background, a study has found, prompting experts to issue guidance for midwives to remain on high alert and lower the threshold for diagnosis by medical professionals. The study found that 55% of pregnant women admitted to the hospital with coronavirus from 1 March to 14 April were from a BAME background. The findings show women from a BAME background were four times more likely to be hospitalized with coronavirus than white women. The study suggests that for pregnant women, being from a BAME background is a stronger predictor of the likelihood of being hospitalized with coronavirus than age and obesity. The “troubling” data prompted the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to develop new guidance for midwives and maternity support workers to ensure that they are aware of the increased risks for BAME women and that there is a lower threshold for investigating symptoms and advising them on whether they need to be seen by a medical professional.
The impact of the coronavirus has shone a light on longstanding maternal health disparities, experts said. The study follows findings from an inquiry published last year, which showed that black women were five times more likely to die from complications surrounding pregnancy and childbirth than white women, while Asian women were twice as likely to die. The RCM has also launched a targeted campaign to raise awareness of the increased risk to BAME women and reassure pregnant mothers that help is available. “We’ve known for some time that there are big disparities in maternal health according to ethnicity,” Prof Marian Knight, the lead researcher of the study at Oxford University, said, “but what is surprising is the extent of the imbalance. More than half of the women who were admitted with Covid-19 in pregnancy were from BAME group, which is very different from the whole birth population as a whole.”