You are here: Making Better Births a reality for women with multiple disadvantages

Revolving Doors Agency and Birth Companions have published a joint research report contributing to a better understanding of the experiences and needs of women facing multiple disadvantage during pregnancy and birth.

Women facing multiple disadvantage often have poor and sometimes traumatic experiences of maternity services, and significantly poorer outcomes. And yet the concept of multiple disadvantage and its implications for women during pregnancy, birth and early motherhood have been under-explored, making relevant health and maternity service improvements – of the kind outlined in NHS England’s vision for Better Births published in 2016 - very difficult to achieve for this group of women.

Birth Companions and Revolving Doors Agency have published new research to help address this. Making Better Births a reality for women with multiple disadvantages was led by a team of peer researchers (women with lived experience of multiple disadvantage who have trained as researchers) and co-designed with local commissioners. The report shares the voices of 34 women in north-east London – voices of a kind rarely heard by mainstream services – mapped against the priorities set out in the National Maternity Review.  

Vicki Cardwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Revolving Doors Agency and co-author of the report, said: 

Women have shared their experience of pregnancy, birth and postnatal support against a background of domestic violence and abuse, mental ill health, substance use, homelessness, trauma, trafficking, criminal justice and the removal of children into the care system. Their contribution, supported by an amazing team of peer researchers who bring a unique perspective, will, we hope, go a long way towards transforming maternity services in Hackney, Barking and Dagenham and beyond.

Naomi Delap, Director of Birth Companions, said:

NHS England set out an ambitious vision for change in Better Births, but the complex and multiple needs of many women are underserved in its detail. This research highlights the practical and emotional barriers these women encounter in the maternity system, including the very real implications of a sense of fear, judgement and exclusion. The report’s findings, both positive and negative, serve as an important illustration of the need for a very different approach – a trauma-informed approach – to ensure women experiencing significant health and social inequalities are fully supported through a time of heightened vulnerability, but also of great opportunity and promise.

Speaking in support of the research and its peer-led model, Kate Brintworth, Head of Maternity Commissioning for East London added:

This approach offers an unparalleled opportunity to hear the lived truth for women experiencing difficulties, and I recommend this excellent report to all those involved with maternity services.

For more information on the report please contact Kirsty Kitchen at Birth Companions – kirsty@birthcompanions.org.uk / 07792779742