The mother of a dancer and influencer who died while eight months pregnant believes her daughter’s concerns were not taken seriously because of her race.
Nicole Thea died in July 2020 of an underlying heart condition – hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a condition her paternal grandmother died from in 1986. Her son Reign also died.
She had previously complained to midwives about shortness of breath and even spoke in YouTube videos to hundreds of thousands of followers that she felt like her baby was “eating her from the inside out”.
Samantha Antoine said her daughter’s death could have been avoided if she had been referred to a consultant.
She told Sky News: “I also believe that because Nicole is a woman of colour, that she was failed on that front because she just wasn’t taken seriously.
“Reign will never be able to ride a bike, I will never be able to pick him up from school, take him swimming.
“And one of the saddest things is Nicole will never get to see Reign and that bothers me. She was so excited to see him,” she added.
According to the most recent data from a report by Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries (MBRRACE-UK), black and ethnic minority women can be around five to six times more likely to die in childbirth.
It is not just mothers from ethnically diverse backgrounds more likely to experience higher morbidity rates.
In 2021, babies from the black ethnic group continued to have the highest rates of death, according to the ONS.
Dr Aneil Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist, has tested some family members for the often-hereditary hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
He says it is always important to address symptoms – and a “baseline EGC, electrical trace of the heart, detects hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in around 90% of cases”.
He says it is prevalent in all ethnic groups, but can be more difficult to identify in black and ethnic minority patients, which he believes is linked to a lack of research.
‘Every maternal death is a tragedy’ – MP
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are absolutely clear we must ensure maternity care is of the same high standard for everyone.
“We set up the Maternity Disparities Taskforce which brings together experts from across the health system, government departments and the voluntary sector to explore and consider evidence-based interventions to tackle maternal disparities.”
But Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP and chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, says the government has fallen short of setting a target.
She said “every maternal death is a tragedy” adding that her “heart goes out to Samantha”.
“I think it’s absolutely crucial that all women, particularly black and other minoritised communities are listened to when they’re pregnant. They know their own bodies best.”
She said she is disappointed there hasn’t been a “specific strategy or target around black maternal deaths” – adding that cases like Nicole’s “highlight how crucial it is that we make sure women are listened to that their health concerns are acted upon.”
Samantha believes the statistics highlighting the disparities other women of colour face is proof there are wider societal issues at play.
The family wants accountability, but until that happens they have taken it among themselves to do something about it.
“I still feel like I how I did the day that she passed away – the first thing I think of in the morning is Nicole and Reign. When I go to sleep, it’s Nicole and Reign,” she said.
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‘Biggest NHS maternity scandal’
Foundation will keep Nicole’s name alive
Global Boga, Nicole’s partner and father to Reign, is setting up the Nicole Thea Reign foundation to help support mothers.
He said: “It’s been three years, but I haven’t lived. I only started to feel myself again when I set up the foundation to honour her and my son.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.
“Nicole literally made my life. All she ever wanted was to be a mother, and I could see that, so I wanted to be the father of her kids.”
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He hopes the foundation, which will be set up to mark Nicole’s birthday on 29 July, will go a long way to keep their name alive, as well as helping others.
“We have lost a great queen, but she is not gone forever. She is in us, she is in our soul,” he said.
Written by: Newsroom