LJMU project looks at roots of racism in maternity care

Racism within maternity care is a pervasive but untold chapter in the history of racial justice in the UK.

The 2022 Rahman inquiry uncovered shocking facts about the relative treatment of minority groups in maternity care but what of its historic roots?

A ground-breaking project at LJMU has teamed History undergraduates with Midwifery students to better understand the genesis of these racial injustices.

The ‘Mistory’ decolonisation project, involves Georgina Keaney, Sarah McDonald and Dr Clare Maxwell from Public and Allied Health and Dr Andrea Livesey from Humanities and Social Studies  and is part of a wider project, involving the Liverpool International Slavery Museum to research Black reproductive justice from slavery through to the present day. 

The project links in with the Liverpool based Black Maternal Health Project, in collaboration with Natalie Denny and Michelle Richards (Collective Encounters), who have designed a pilot programme of creative workshops with local Black women that use Andrea Livesey's research and artefacts from National Museums Liverpool's collections as a starting point for discussions on maternal healthcare. 

This work is funded by the British Academy and LJMU.

Members of the Mistory team, LJMU interns Emily Atkinson and Eden Woodcock (History) and Olga Machado-Le Gal and Gina Chapman (Midwifery), pictured above, attended the Black Maternal Health conference in London.

The interns have conducted focus groups with Andrea’s history students and Clare’s midwifery students to discuss how historical material related to Black maternal health and midwifery can help shed light on our understanding of the Black experience and the barriers to equality in maternity care systems.

Findings from the focus groups are being developed into recommendations which will be used towards decolonising midwifery education.

The Mistory team will be presenting their findings at this week’s Students at the Heart conference June 12th.  

Andrea said: “We hope that a greater understanding of the roots of racial injustice can help influence midwifery education going forward.” 

The project team are now seeking funding for further research and creative interventions to confront Black maternal health disparities.

 In 2022, the Rahman Inquiry, for charity Birthrights, found that Black women in the UK were four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women, and Asian and mixed-race women, twice as likely. Its report called for changes to workplace culture and maternity curriculums and guidance.


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