Plan to support pregnant women during Covid-19 - EasternEye

Plan to support pregnant women during Covid-19

By Zeenath Uddin
Head of quality and safety
Royal College of Midwives

THERE is barely a cor­ner of the world that hasn’t been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will know friends or family, both here and overseas, who have had the disease. Most will have experienced it on­ly mildly and are on their way to recovery, but many – too many – have had to receive hos­pital care, and thou­sands have sadly died.

Covid-19 is a disease that has not hit all com­munities equally. We know that, among the healthcare workers who have lost their lives, a significant number were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. We don’t yet understand why this is, but we do know how to protect ourselves – and each other.

Don’t assume that this only applies to men or to older people. If you are pregnant and you are Asian, you are also at higher risk. We already know that, even before the current pan­demic, women from Asian backgrounds were twice as likely to die in childbirth than the average population.

A recent study has found that over half (55 per cent) of UK preg­nant women admitted to hospital with corona­virus were from BAME backgrounds. We do not yet completely under­stand why, although we know there are links to underlying health prob­lems like diabetes, obe­sity and cardiovascular disorders that make women from these backgrounds more vul­nerable to the virus.

It may also be the type of work they do, as there is a dispropor­tionately high number of frontline key workers from these communi­ties. Or it could be their housing conditions – deprived areas, over­crowded housing and living in multi-genera­tion households may increase their chanced of getting Covid-19.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is de­termined to ensure you and your baby are safe throughout and beyond your pregnancy. That’s why we’ve launched a campaign to help you take care of yourself and your baby – and to seek help when you need it.

As part of the cam­paign, the RCM has published a poster for pregnant women with straightforward advice on keeping you and your baby safe during the pandemic. If you have signs or symptoms of the virus, like a cough or a fever, call NHS 111 for advice. It’s really im­portant to let your mid­wife know if there’s any­thing unusual going on, particularly if you are worried about your baby’s movements, find blood in your underwear or when you go to the loo, or have constant abdominal pain or sudden or severe headaches.

Make sure you attend all your antenatal ap­pointments so your midwife can check that you are staying well and your baby is growing well. And if your midwife is visiting you at home, make sure you have a private space so they can examine you and you can have a chat.

You may be thinking, ‘but the NHS is so busy, I don’t want to worry anyone’. Or maybe you are worried about expo­sure to the virus if you have to go to hospital. Maternity services are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they are safe. Midwives would rather you make contact to make sure everything is okay, because delaying or not coming forward may mean that your condition may become more serious.

We know that this vi­rus is not affecting NHS staff equally. Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of healthcare workers who died with Covid-19 are from BAME back­grounds. These inequalities show the barriers and systemic discrimi­nation faced by people from non-white back­grounds, and these trends are not diminishing.

The RCM is doing all it can to ensure that midwives and maternity support workers are properly protected, par­ticularly those who are at increased risk, including those from BAME backgrounds. We have published guidance for employers to support and protect staff who may be at a higher risk and also advice for RCM members around their rights to proper risk assessment.

It should not be the case that whether you have a safe pregnancy or whether you come home at the end of an NHS shift during this pandemic is dependent on the colour of your skin. Every woman has the right to the best possible pregnancy and birth, regardless of her race or background. And every member of NHS staff deserves to be treated with care and respect, including those from BAME backgrounds. The RCM is determined that this is the case for every pregnant woman and every member of maternity staff, throughout this current crisis and beyond.

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