‘I am Mary’ protest raises awareness of the ongoing lack of safety for pregnant women

On 21 April 2021, in Parliament Square, five pregnant women held a vigil and protest to honour Mary Agyapong, the 28-year-old pregnant nurse who died of Covid-19 this time last year. Wearing ‘I am Mary’ t-shirts, the women asked the government to do more to protect pregnant women from contracting Covid-19 at work.

We recently released figures from a new study of over 18,000 mums and pregnant women, which revealed that a huge 57% of pregnant women working outside of the home do not feel safe. A further 76% of pregnant women working outside of the home say they cannot socially distance at work, and less than half (48%) say their employer is following a mutually agreed risk assessment, despite this being unlawful.

Joeli Brearley, Founder and CEO Pregnant Then Screwed, said ‘‘The death of Mary Agyapong cut deep for so many of us. We had hoped that this tragedy would trigger a change in the guidance for pregnant women to ensure others were better protected from Covid-19, but no such guidance was forthcoming despite pressure from our charity and other groups. It took the government nine months to issue specific guidance for pregnant women in the workplace and our research shows that employers are still not adhering to it. Ultimately, this lack of adequate protection, and lack of enforcement, is putting the lives of these women and their babies at risk.’’

Joeli Brearley continued, ‘Study after study has shown that pregnant women, particularly those in the third trimester, are more likely to be admitted to ICU, up to three times more likely to give birth prematurely, and have worse maternal outcomes than pregnant women without Covid-19, including abnormalities in the placenta causing fetal compromise. This safety risk isn’t going anywhere even with the recent announcement that pregnant women are now being offered the vaccine, it will still be a few months before they are called for their injection and not all pregnant women will feel confident in taking it. This must be dealt with carefully and compassionately as we begin to relax restrictions. Pregnant women’s safety is paramount and Pregnant Then Screwed continues to call on the government to ensure all employers suspend pregnant women on full pay if they cannot keep them 2 meters away from other people at all times.’

Currently, almost one-third of pregnant women (29%) are working outside of the home, and only 4% of pregnant women have been suspended from work on safety grounds.

Ernest Boateng, the husband of Mary Agyapong, said, ‘My beautiful Mary died over a year ago. Her tragic death was totally unnecessary, and it could have been averted. It has left me without a wife and my children without a mother. Since that day, I have been campaigning for better protections for pregnant women in the workplace, but a year later, we are still finding that 57% of pregnant women working outside of the home feel unsafe. This is not right. The government must do more to ensure pregnant women, particularly Black pregnant women, are protected from contracting Covid-19. I don’t want another family to have to go through what mine has been through these last 12 months.‘’

Ernest wrote to the Prime Minister in October last year asking that he do more to protect pregnant workers. He never received a response.

Pregnant Then Screwed and Ernest Boateng are calling on the government to intervene as a matter of urgency to prevent more pregnant women from dying.


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