Publish date: 16 February 2024

A large study looking at the experiences of people across England after giving birth by Caesarean section has highlighted disparities in outcomes between patients of different ethnic groups.

The study authors, led by UCLH consultant anaesthetic Dr James O’Carroll, said work was now needed to understand in more detail and address the disparities they found in terms of pain and recovery.

The study is published in Anaesthesia, the journal of the Association of Anaesthetists, and looked at data from 1,000 patients from obstetric centres across the NHS in England collected in October 2021.

It was a collaboration between UCLH, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and Stanford University Medical School.

The study found that White patients had a shorter length of hospital stay after C-section compared with Asian and Black patients – 35 hours on average vs 44 and 49 respectively.

In addition, 30 days after giving birth, Asian patients had over twice the risk of moderate or severe pain compared to those of White ethnic groups. There were no differences between groups in pain medication usage.

There were more patients from deprived communities in the non-white groups. But even when the study team corrected for socio-economic group, and factors such as age, BMI and past medical history, the disparities remained.

There were no differences in readmission rates or complications between groups.

Dr O’Carroll said: “We now need more research to understand exactly why there are disparities between patients of different ethnic groups. And we need to find ways of reducing and eliminating these disparities.”

The study was funded by a grant from the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association.

Read the paper.