Having a baby for the first time can be one of life's great joys. Watching life grow inside you for nine months, all while planning your offspring's future is something everyone who wants to be a parent looks forward to. But not everyone has a joyous experience.
A new report has found that Black women are still four times more likely than white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth in the UK. Women from Asian ethnic backgrounds face twice the risk of that of a white woman. This new data shows a slight narrowing of the divide — last year's report found Black women were five times more likely to die — but experts are quick to point out that this is hardly a sign of progress.
A report published in December by the joint committee on human rights highlighted the lack of an NHS target to end the disparity and urged the government to introduce one. Almost all of those who died during or after pregnancy had multiple issues such as mental or physical health problems, were survivors of domestic abuse, or were living in a deprived area. More than half of those who died were overweight or obese. Cardiac disease represents the largest single cause of indirect maternal deaths.
Nicole Thea, a London-based social media influencer, died on 11th July 2020 along with her unborn child while eight months pregnant. While the autopsy report is still pending, Thea's uncle told the Daily Mail the family thinks she died from "a massive heart attack."
"Nicole was saying that she was struggling to breathe. She was struggling with her chest — she had a pain in her chest," Charles Murray told the Mail. "It was so surreal as she was so young. It is such a shock. It has really, really shaken us all up."
Black celebrities have also spoken out about their difficult pregnancy and childbirth experiences. Beyonce's preeclampsia, a complication involving high blood pressure and protein in the urine, put her on bed rest for more than a month prior to an emergency C-section. Serena Williams also had an emergency C-section, followed by a pulmonary embolism that almost killed her, as she wrote for CNN. Both women have emphasised that not many Black women, especially those in poorer countries, are lucky enough to receive the kind of life-saving treatment they did.
"Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth," Williams wrote.
Ahead, we speak to young Black women in the UK about their experience of pregnancy and childbirth.