The level of healthcare provided to pregnant women at UK detention centres is “unacceptable”, according to midwives who have called for more specialist support for the vulnerable group.
They noted that migrant women were often physically and mentally traumatised by the experiences that had led them to seek asylum in Britain.
“We can only imagine the traumas they have faced during their lives”
Many pregnant detainees were survivors of rape, torture and trafficking, they highlighted. Most experienced serious complications in pregnancy, yet the majority struggled to get even basic healthcare, midwives from the charity Medical Justice UK told delegates at the RCN International Centenary Conference.
Phoebe Pallotti and Morag Forbes, who volunteer for the charity, have first-hand experience of working with women at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, where they found a lack of specialist care.
“These are among the most vulnerable women we have ever cared for and the levels of healthcare they receive are completely unacceptable,” said Ms Forbes, who is a family nurse at Lewisham and Greenwich Family Nurse Partnership.
“Migrant women have poorer maternity outcomes than the general population in any case, and for women in detention the results are even worse,” she said.
“We can only imagine the traumas they have faced during their lives. These women need specialist care and support to reduce the risk of further harm, both physical and psychological, to themselves and their unborn child,” she added.
Medical Justice UK has successfully campaigned for a 72-hour detention limit for pregnant women, but Ms Forbes said much more work was need to ensure they got the right level of care.
“As nursing and midwifery staff working on the frontlines, we are in a unique position to use our experience and expertise to fight further for these women’s rights,” she told the conference in London.
“But we need to work together if we are to help them all receive the specialist care they need and deserve,” she stated.
The RCN International Centenary Conference is taking place at London’s QEII Centre from 22-23 November.