Research project launched to explore support needs of pregnant survivors of modern slavery.

Mum And Baby

Pregnancy and birth can be challenging at the best of times, but for women trapped in exploitation, it can be terrifying.

Latest research shows that around three in every ten female survivors of modern slavery are pregnant whilst being trafficked or exploited, often as a result of their sexual exploitation, or assault from their trafficker.

Causeway supports many women in our services who arrive pregnant, or with a very young child, and in order to better understand the maternity care and support they need, we have joined forces with the University of Nottingham to undertake research into specialist maternity care for pregnant survivors of modern slavery.

The research is being funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and The Salvation Army.

As well as the trauma pregnant women have experienced as a result of their trafficking or exploitation, they also face many barriers to good quality maternity care that most women in the UK would not.

These include unfamiliarity with UK health systems, including knowledge of what they are entitled to, and where to seek support.

Many pregnant survivors must also navigate complex bureaucratic systems such as the NRM (National Referral Mechanism), immigration, asylum etc, as well as not having English as a first language.

For those still under the control of their exploiters, they may be prevented from accessing care due to fear, treated violently, and unlikely to have access to a good quality diet.

Exploited women who do manage to access maternity care, often do so late in their pregnancies, so issues with their health, or the health of their babies may have been missed.

Maternity staff often have limited knowledge of addressing these issues, so the hope behind the project is that by bringing research and health professionals together with services that work directly with survivors, and survivors themselves, the gaps in this knowledge can be bridged.

Dr Matthew Young, Research and Development manager at Causeway, said: “We’re looking forward to working with survivors and NHS professionals, to better understand challenges faced by new and expectant mothers who have experienced modern slavery, and to understand how collaboration and training can improve outcomes for them.

“We will work with organisations that support women survivors nationally, and will include survivor mothers from varied backgrounds and cultures who will take part in interviews and focus groups. We will also interview staff from support agencies and maternity professionals. From this information, we will work with our partners, including lived experience experts, to create best practice resources to support women’s decision-making, and guide those providing care and support during maternity. This will be followed by the integration of resources into existing platforms and training.”

A free webinar will take place on July 23rd, 11am-12pm to launch the project, and will be introduced by Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Eleanor Lyons.

Project lead Dr Sara Borrelli from Nottingham University School of Health Science will host a panel of the research team, who will discuss why the research is taking place, how it will be conducted, and how the research outcomes will be used to create resources and training for professionals working with pregnant survivors.


Click here to join the webinar via MS Teams