Maternity staff working with black and Asian women to improve pregnancy and birth experiences

North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) maternity staff have been working with women from black and Asian backgrounds to improve outcomes and experiences during pregnancy and birth.

Project SMILE was set-up with funding from Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Vaccination Programme’s Reducing Inequalities Grant Awards to look at the experience of black women and those from minority ethnic groups who had babies in the city over the last five years.

The project was carried out in response to MBRRACE reports which consistently highlight that women in these groups have worse outcomes in pregnancy and childbirth, including significantly higher stillbirth and neonatal death rates nationally.

Four focus groups were held across the city, giving almost 50 women the opportunity to share their experiences of maternity care, particularly focussed on the antenatal period, to help staff understand any barriers that might be affecting outcomes for black women and those from other minority ethnic backgrounds.

NBT obstetrician, Dr Lisa Kirk, has led on the project with support from colleagues across the organisation and partners in the community, including the Shahporan Islamic Centre.

Dr Kirk said: “As bereavement lead, I saw it as a responsibility we had as a Trust to explore these women’s experiences during the antenatal period to see what we could do locally to improve outcomes.

“We carried out focus groups with women from across the city, who were kind enough to share their experiences with us. We value their time and their honesty in sharing what went well and what did not during their pregnancies and births so that we can work to turn things around. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in making this happen.”

Feedback from the focus groups is currently being analysed, but some work has already started in patient experience, medication choice, and education as a result of this work.

Midwives and Maternity Support Workers at NBT have also been involved in the Health Innovation West of England (formerly the West of England Academic Health Science Network) Black Maternity Matters pilot, which was designed to support improvements to reduce inequity of outcomes for Black women within maternity settings.

Earlier this month Dr Kirk received the We Make a Difference in Our Community award at our NBT Staff Awards, for her commitment to improving care for all women during pregnancy and birth and her kindness and compassion in delivering care.