Maternity Voices Partnership

As the Community Development Worker for the Perinatal Equity Project at SMEF, I am excited to share with you the work we are doing to support pregnant women and new mothers in the local communities of Knaphill and Stanwell.

It is important to note that ethnic minorities in the UK face significant inequality in accessing healthcare during the perinatal and postnatal periods. According to research, Black and Asian women in the UK are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth compared to their White counterparts. Additionally, ethnic minorities have lower rates of maternal and infant health outcomes and are less likely to access perinatal mental health services.

At SMEF, we recognise these disparities and are committed to providing support to these communities. Our Perinatal Equity Project offers non-clinical support to pregnant women and new mothers, as part of the NHS Surrey Heartlands’ “The First 1000 days” project, which includes support for perinatal and postnatal women whether that be for mental health, peer support and assisting their empowerment through education. We believe that by providing this support, we can help reduce the barriers that prevent ethnic minority women from accessing quality healthcare during these critical periods.

Professor Lucy Greene and Professor Mark Hanson, University of Southampton published the following in the recent edition of Families: Surrey West, in the article Secrets of our First Thousand Days.

An increasing number of medical experts would say that we are missing a fundamental clue to what makes us healthy. Our lifelong risk of chronic diseases can be established during our first thousand days, from conception until age two. This critical time affects how our bodies are put together and how we respond to the world we live in, with its stresses, need for exercise and good diet, adequate sleep and healthy behaviours”.

We have successfully launched our “Baby Steps” group in both Woking and Stanwell. Where we had a great time engaging with mothers and finding out what their needs and experiences were in the hope of co-producing our group sessions. We also found time to decorate dates and Easter bunny biscuits – delicious as they were but who can say to sprinkles – and engaging activities for the little ones. Our fortnightly session will begin on Monday 24th of April in Stanwell at the Stanwell Family Centre and Thursday 27th April at The Vyne Community Centre, Knaphill.

This month, we have also been busy as part of the need to raise awareness and reduce disparities and teamed up with Maternity Voices Partnership where we carried out the “15 Steps Toolkit”, which is a new method which looks at maternity services from the perspective of those who use them at The Royal Surrey Hospitals Maternity ward. This included arriving at the hospital from the frame of reference of and pregnant or postnatal woman from an ethnic minority, and walking through the hospital to the maternity departments, with the mindset of identifying what someone using the services may experience and how to better meet their needs.

The staff at Royal Surrey’s Maternity Ward were fantastic, as were the other collaborators in the project. They were genuinely intrigued, and actively took part in trying to understand the feedback provided. The experience was overall, eye opening for all involved.