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Lack of Antenatal Care for Pregnant Migrants

Pregnant immigrants are failing to seek essential antenatal medical care in the UK because they are afraid of deportation or of running up debts they cannot repay, a recent report has claimed.

The report, by medical charity Doctors of the World UK, found that as many as two-thirds of pregnant women using its drop-in medical clinic in East London had not received any antenatal care before the second trimester of their pregnancy. Around half of them went without care for 20 weeks or more. The majority of the clinic’s patients are apparently undocumented migrants or asylum seekers.

Going without antenatal care can increase the risk of complications for both mother and baby, including low birth weight, pre-term delivery and higher rates of perinatal mortality.

“These findings indicate an unacceptable inequality in our health system,” commented Lucy Jones, an author of the study. “We must continue to improve access to healthcare for all mothers regardless of their wealth or immigration status.”

According to Phil Murwill, who contributed to the study and runs Doctors of the World’s east London clinic, pregnancy complications caused by a lack of antenatal care can also result in increased costs for the NHS. In some cases costs can reach £50,000, which is around 15 times higher than the cost would be if problems were identified and treated early.

“It makes no economic sense to deny women antenatal care,” Mr Murwill concluded.

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