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UKBA puts pregnant women at risk

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pregnant woman, Pregnant women are torn from their families and healthcare, causing undue distress, health problems.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) came under heavy fire last week after it was accused of ‘endangering’ the health of pregnant asylum seekers.

This although UKBA have been discouraged from detaining pregnant women.

The report, which was carried out by the Maternity Action and the Refugee Council, interviewed 20 pregnant asylum-seeking women and 17 midwives.

It discovered that hundreds of women were forced to move or relocate numerous times during their pregnancy, causing them unnecessary discomfort and distress.

In many cases, women were separated from their partners and even made to deliver their babies without them.

The report also indicated that many of these pregnancies were also high risk, given the background of the asylum-seeking women.

Many of these women already suffered serious health conditions that led to them fleeing their own countries, including torture, sexual violence, HIV and genital mutilation.

As a result, these women could be prone to or develop mental health conditions, such as severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

The report concluded that constant relocation of these women had a “serious impact on their physical and mental health, and negatively affects the maternity care they receive.”

A spokesperson from UKBA claimed that, “This report draws conclusions from a small sample of cases and doesn’t take into account recent changes we have made.”

“We consider every case individually and, wherever possible, women in the latter stages of pregnancy will not be moved to a different area.

“Last year we introduced a revised pregnancy dispersal policy which includes a commitment to not move any pregnant woman during the four weeks before or after her due date.

“Any asylum seeker is only moved to a different area if it is safe and practical to do so and those with severe or complex healthcare needs have their clinicians notified throughout the process,” he added.

The report, however, found that even this ‘protection period’ failed to ‘prevent the interruption of maternity care or to recognise the importance of postnatal care for at least six weeks after birth’.

It also insisted that the UKBA guidelines did not consider the mental or physical issues that were already present in pregnant women or that could occur during their pregnancy.

The report also argued that it did not ‘address women’s need for social and family support throughout pregnancy and labour’.

And the sudden upheaval of these women was a costly and an unnecessary expense as it forced new midwives to repeat tests and scans.

The Director of Maternity Action, Rosalind Bragg said, “It is high time the UKBA recognised asylum-seeking women as being a particularly vulnerable group with complex needs, and urgently ensure their policies reflect this.”

Shan Nicholas, of the Refugee Council said, “The UKBA must stop sending pregnant women to live in new cities unless all risks have been considered and adequate healthcare arrangements have been made.”

“We work with pregnant women every day who have been ripped away from their families and healthcare, causing undue distress and health problems at what should be an exciting and positive time of their lives,” she added.

Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said health workers were unable to give the necessary treatment and support to these vulnerable women.

“Our society is failing these women and their babies.

“This is not acceptable, particularly when the solutions are so obvious,” she said.

  1. sue tapply says:

    A simple change in government policy could protect these women and their babies.

    Please ask your MP to write to the Home Secretary to ask her to protect pregnant women seeking asylum and their babies.
    Go here http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/dignityinpregnancy for further info

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