Midwife’s bid to improve maternity care for BAME mums-to-be in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge

Maria Benedetti, the lead midwife for multi-ethnic empowerment. Picture: BHRUT

Maria Benedetti, the lead midwife for multi-ethnic empowerment. Picture: BHRUT - Credit: BHRUT

A midwife aims to use lessons learnt during the coronavirus pandemic to improve care for mums-to-be from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Maria Benedetti, the lead midwife for multi-ethnic empowerment at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) initially took up her new job in January but was recalled to provide clinical care during the Covid-19 crisis.

Now, though, the mum-of-four is resuming the role once more and aims to make maternity care inclusive for all women.

“Before Covid-19 hit I spent time going into community areas where we have high numbers of BAME pregnant women and finding out more about their experiences of maternity care,” she said.

“I’ve also spent time with our bereavement and safeguarding teams, as stillbirth and domestic violence are more prevalent in our BAME communities.

“We know we need to take into account cultural differences and adapt our services.”

She added: “The pandemic has also exacerbated the fear of women coming into hospital, so we need to look for new ways to reach out to them, such as through tailored communications and community centres.”

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Maria, who lives in Barking, wanted to become a midwife after giving birth to her oldest child when she was just 15.

“Both my older children were born in Portugal, where I grew up, and I had challenging experiences,” she explained.

“My younger two were born in the UK where my experience was much better.”

It wasn’t until 2016 that Maria’s dream became true after taking an access to midwifery course at Barking and Dagenham College, followed by a degree at Southbank University.

“I specifically wanted to work at Queen’s Hospital,” she said. “Training was really hard, especially as I was raising teenagers and wasn’t academic at all.”

She added that moving from Portugal, where she experienced direct racism, to the UK was eye-opening.

“It gave me my first taste of diversity,” the 38-year-old said. “I was shocked when I saw a black person working in a bank. For the first time, I didn’t feel different.”

But she found racism in the UK came in other forms - such as receiving looks from strangers when out with her husband Chris, who is white.

Maria added: “We need to see change and that comes from challenging people in the right way.”