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Girls & Women

Tragic Death of Pregnant British YouTuber Sparks Debate on Racism in Maternal Health Care

Why Global Citizens Should Care
We'll never achieve the UN's Global Goals to end extreme poverty without ending racism — because systematic racial injustice in areas like health care, education, and employment will persist in marginalising vulnerable communities. Pregnancy complications, for example, continue to kill far more Black women than white women in the UK and the US, for example, and is significantly exacerbated by poverty. The heartbreaking story of Nicole Thea has, for many, served as a reminder of this inequality. Take action here to insist that all women get access to the quality health care they need.

The tragic death of 24-year-old Nicole Thea — British YouTube sensation and expectant mother — has sparked an outpouring of grief on social media as people highlight the disproportionate death rates of British Black women during pregnancy and childbirth.

Thea was eight months pregnant when she passed away on the morning of July 11, along with her unborn son, named Reign, according to a post from her mother on her Instagram page.

While no cause of death has been shared by the family, the Metro reported that Thea did not die in childbirth. The family may decide to release further details at a later date.

“To all Nicole’s friends and supporters it is with great sadness that I have to inform you that Nicole and her son she and Boga named Reign sadly passed away on Saturday morning,” the post from her family said. “Also Nicole pre-schedule a few YouTube videos and Boga has made the decision to allow them to be aired.”

“As a family we ask that you give us privacy because our hearts are truly broken and we are struggling to cope with what has happened,” it continued. ”Thank you her mum RIP My beautiful baby girl Nicnac and my grandson Reign, I will miss you for the rest of my life until we meet again in eternal heaven” [sic].

On July 1, Thea posted a YouTube video where she discussed “the worst thing about my pregnancy” — talking about constantly being out of breath, and how short trips across the room would make her “feel like I’m dying.” 

“It’s hard, I’m not going to lie to you,” Thea said in the video.

The devastating news led to many people turning to social media to highlight persistent racial inequalities in maternal health care in Britain. Among other posts, many have been sharing the results of a 2018 report revealing that Black and Asian women are more vulnerable to death from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Related Stories Jan. 11, 2018 Serena Williams’ Scary Childbirth Story Is Part of a Larger Pattern of Discrimination Against Black Moms

The UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths found that the mortality rate for pregnant Black women in Britain was 1 in 2,500 between 2014 and 2016, while for white women, the risk was five times smaller.

For every 100,000 expectant mothers in England, the report found that 40 Black women died during or up to six weeks of pregnancy. For mixed race women, it was 16; and 15 for Asian women. The lowest risk was with white (eight deaths per 100,000) and Chinese (five deaths) mothers.

"The almost fivefold higher mortality rate amongst Black women compared with white women requires urgent explanation and action,” the report stated.

Here’s what some people on social media had to say.

That horrific trend in differing standards of maternal health care is echoed in the US, too — where Black women are 243% more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women. Indeed, Beyoncé and Serena Williams have both previously shared powerful stories of their experiences of childbirth.

Often, there are substantial links to poverty, according to NPR, as Black women are more likely to face economic barriers that stop them from receiving proper health care, especially in the US.

And in Britain, the BBC reports that social factors such as housing, insecure work, and inadequate use of antenatal care can also lead to complications.