Childbirth pain relief study reveals inequalities for BAME mothers
London — A new study published in the journal Anaesthesia by experts including Dr James Bamber, an anaesthesia consultant with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has found that there are differences in obstetric anaesthetic care between ethnic groups in the UK. The study analysed data from more than 2.7 million births in the UK between 2011 and 2021 and focused on ethnicity, adjusting for health and age, location, and previous deliveries. The study found that Bangladeshi-British, Pakistani-British, and black Caribbean-British women were less likely to receive an epidural than white women, with black women approximately 40% less likely to have an assisted vaginal birth compared to white women. Additionally, black Caribbean-British women were 58% more likely to be given general anaesthesia for elective caesarean births and 10% more likely than white women to be given general anaesthesia for emergency Caesarean births. The study authors say that reasons for the differences are unknown, but there is a need for further research to reduce any inequalities in pain relief and anaesthesia received. The authors also suggest that barriers to information and knowledge, as well as empathy biases from healthcare professionals, may contribute to differences in maternity care given to women from different ethnic groups. They urge health professionals to ensure that any differences in anaesthesia rates are not due to inequities in the access, delivery, or quality of care before they are attributed to personal or cultural preferences.