Best for Baby- Improving maternity services for refugees and asylum-seekers through research and creativity

 

This Refugee Week, we are celebrating the incredible work of the Perinatal Research Group who are collaborating with Maternity Care services and University of Birmingham to improve research and access for pregnant refugees and asylum seekers.  Our Head of Policy and Advocacy, Pip McKnight reflects on the journey so far.

 

Last year, Liverpool CCG approached Refugee Women Connect about how they could improve maternity services for asylum seekers and refugees in the city.  It’s long been understood that insecure immigration status has a negative impact on the health of mothers and babies, in part due to services not understanding the challenges that insecure status has on those in the system and the barriers these create to accessing care.  Midwives and health care professionals often go above and beyond to offer the highest standard of maternity care possible, but many aren’t aware of the specific barriers those seeking asylum or living on the margins of the immigration system might face.  They may not know that living on £5 a day asylum support can mean having to make a difficult choice between getting a bus to an appointment or eating that day or that many in the asylum system won’t have family or friends to look after older children when they are in labour.  Information on the experiences of asylum seekers and the barriers they may face in pregnancy is not readily available in the NHS and the experiences of asylum seeking and refugee women are rarely heard.

 

To respond to these challenges, Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group put together an Improvement Collaborative made up of commissioners, midwives, health visitors, mental health services, third sector organisations and a group of Refugee Women Connect’s lived experience advocates. The Perinatal Research group aka Creative Influencers aka Onyeka, Judell, Arine and Reveulta have spent the past months working with the Collaborative and Liverpool Lighthouse to use creative approaches to unpack these barriers and find solutions to improve care.  The group are also completing a Community Researcher training programme with the University of Birmingham School of Social Policy, learning the foundations of qualitative research while contributing to existing maternal health inequalities research as participants and consultants.

 

This work is only just beginning but plans are afoot to develop training with midwives to improve understanding of the lived experiences of pregnant asylum seekers and refugees and to carry out a joint research project with peer researchers in Birmingham, comparing experiences of maternity care in our two cities. So much more needs to be done but we are excited to see the changes to come so that more asylum seeker and refugees can enjoy healthy, happy and safe pregnancies.