Ethnic minority women's experience of maternity services in England

Ethn Health. 2013;18(3):280-96. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2012.730608. Epub 2012 Oct 8.


Objectives: Provision for ethnic minority groups has been acknowledged as integral to good maternity care in England and ethnicity has been highlighted as an indicator of both poorer clinical outcomes and poorer experiences. Improving outcomes and services is dependent on understanding women's interaction with both service delivery and provision. The aim of this study was to explore Black and minority ethnic (BME) women's experiences of contemporary maternity care in England.

Design: A UK-wide survey which investigated core aspects of maternity care sought the views of BME women about their experiences. A random sample of women were selected by the Office for National Statistics from birth registration in England and invited to complete a questionnaire three months after the birth. In a secondary analysis, text responses to open-ended questions about their maternity care were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Sixty per cent of the 368 women who self-identified as BME responded with open text. Themes that emerged related to 'feeling cared for,' with subthemes of 'expectations of care' and 'policies, rules and organisational pressures'; 'staff attitudes and communication' with sub-themes of 'please believe me,' 'hospital as a safe place,' 'choices denied' and 'being sensitive and supportive would help,' and 'ethnicity and culture' with sub-themes of 'stereotyping' and 'improving the quality of care.'

Conclusion: The findings highlight issues affecting the quality of maternity care that BME women in England receive. Many issues are not unique to BME women; however, the findings reflect some seemingly enduring issues and coherence with other wider international findings, particularly in relation to post-natal care and staff attitudes. Actually being cared for and supported across their child-bearing experience are needs that women themselves identified as critical for care providers to recognise and respond to. The failures of care provision described should inform the development of services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Black People
  • Communication
  • England
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / standards*
  • Minority Groups*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Postnatal Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Registries
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women / psychology*
  • Young Adult