"Unhappy with Postnatal Care"

About: Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske) / Maternity Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske) / Neonatology

(as a service user),

I had an elective c-section and sterilisation in January. It was my 4th baby and 2nd caesarean. The birth went well, I couldn’t fault the staff in theatre and recovery, they made me feel at ease and were lovely and supportive throughout.

I then got transferred to Wheal Fortune ward for postnatal care. Within a couple of hours of being on the ward I was in quite a lot of pain. I asked the midwife looking after me for more analgesia and was given paracetamol. Throughout my stay on the ward anything stronger than paracetamol or ibuprofen was greatly discouraged and I was made to feel awful for asking for anything else. I was told that I would pass the drug to my baby through my breast milk and that it would have a detrimental effect on her. Needless to say I had a very uncomfortable and difficult night.

The next morning my baby was found to have a heart murmur and we were ushered up to Neonatal for an echocardiogram. I walked to the lifts and then on to the examination room with nothing more than paracetamol cover less than 24 hours after major abdominal surgery. Once there I had to be given a chair and a drink, I thought I was going to pass out with the pain. When I eventually arrived back at the ward, I asked for more pain relief and was told that I wasn’t due any paracetamol yet. I burst into tears and was thankfully given dihydrocodeine to settle the pain.

The doctor that spoke to me before my discharge a few hours later asked how my pain was and I told him that it had been almost unbearable due to a lack of pain relief. He seemed shocked that I hadn’t been given stronger analgesia regularly. I was in an incredible amount of pain in those first 24 hours and whilst I understand the risks of dihydrocodeine when nursing, I feel I should have been allowed to make an informed choice about whether to take it or not; I think it’s wrong that I was made to feel so bad about needing it and almost too afraid to ask for it. 

My baby was given an orange hat to wear immediately after birth which represented a need for support. It was explained to me that this need was due to me having had a c-section and wanting to breastfeed when I had been unable to feed my other children for various reasons. I was assured by my community midwife prior to the birth that the staff on the postnatal ward would support me with nursing my daughter and so I was pleased when she was given this hat as it meant that they would have a visual aid to make them aware of my need for help.

However, not one member of staff throughout my stay on the ward asked if I needed help, if I knew what I was doing or if I needed information about positioning, latching, feeding cues or frequency of feeding etc. I was left to get on with it completely on my own. I rang the bell several times during my stay to ask for assistance but the staff always took so long to respond that I would try to get my baby feeding on my own. When they did arrive I would ask if my baby was latched correctly and each time the midwife or MSW that came had a quick look, said yes and then swiftly left. All apart from one midwife who proceeded to manhandle my baby away from my breast without any warning. She shoved her under my gown and said ‘she needs more skin-to-skin time’ and then she left. My husband and I were both quite shocked that she would grab our baby in this manner without gaining consent or even explaining what she was about to do.

No further advice was given so after a period of skin-to-skin I just struggled on with the next feed, no further forward in knowing what I was doing. I didn’t know how to latch a baby on to the breast and didn’t feel like I was doing it right at all but no one listened to my concerns or offered any help. When I was discharged the next day, I left the hospital feeling very sore and disappointed in the lack of support I had received. 

Not all of the staff but certainly the majority seemed to show a ‘no-nonsense attitude’ and when you’re in pain and feeling vulnerable after just having had a baby, this can come across as abrupt and really quite aggressive. My catheter hadn’t been draining well overnight and the midwife was monitoring it. She encouraged me to drink plenty of fluids which I made sure I did. However, in the morning when the MSW came to work out my fluid balance she took one look at the catheter bag and then told me off for not drinking enough. I told her about the numerous jugs of water I’d had to drink and that the midwife was aware of the situation but she continued to speak to me very rudely, practically saying that I was lying about the drinks I’d had. As a medical professional myself, I know the importance of fluid intake to decrease the risk of blockages and infections and help with the patency of the catheter. In my role I often have to encourage people to increase their fluid intake for these reasons but I have never once done it in a way so belittling to the patient. I do feel that the staff need to go back to basics when it comes to giving care. A little bit of kindness or compassion would have gone a long way in improving my post-birth experience. 

I feel that my daughter’s birth at RCH was a positive experience but it was unfortunately spoiled by the lack of care I received postnatally on Wheal Fortune ward. The lack of pain relief, the lack of breastfeeding support and the poor attitude of staff made this a difficult and unpleasant ordeal that I am glad I will not be repeating. 


Response from Sarah Coe, Postnatal Ward Manager, Wheal Fortune, Royal Cornwall Hospital last month
We have made a change
Sarah Coe
Postnatal Ward Manager, Wheal Fortune,
Royal Cornwall Hospital
Submitted on 12/06/2020 at 16:40
Published on Care Opinion at 17:10

Dear juniper 22

Thank you for writing to us, we welcome your comments as they assist us in improving our service so others will not feel the same way as you did. I note that you felt supported and happy with your care in theatre, we will pass this on to the numerous members of our obstetric theatre team.

I am sorry that you experienced difficulty in obtaining access to pain relief after your admission to Wheal Fortune. The prescription package for analgesia following a caesarean section is for paracetamol due to the toxicity of the stronger pharmaceutical drugs. The stronger analgesia needs to be individually prescribed by a doctor, which takes additional time as the doctors are not based in this area. I apologise if this was not explained to you in a more sympathetic manner at the time. We would like to involve all patients in decision making however the Midwives can't give out any other analgesia without a doctors prescription and examination. This will take time as the doctors are based on delivery suite. I am pleased to see once a doctor was available to see you your analgesic preferences were taken into account at your discharge.

I am so pleased to see that your daughters heart murmur was picked up so quickly by the experts midwives for neonatal transitional care on Wheal fortune. It is great to hear that she was taken to neonatal unit straight away, where you found their care compassionate and supportive.

I am sorry that you did not receive the support you expected from our infant feeding team whilst you where on Wheal Fortune. A great deal has been invested in this team that are now based on this ward. A change we have made since January is that the infant feeding team will visit all new parents on the ward daily to enquire if they need help. Hopefully this change will prevent your situation from reoccurring.

I am sorry that you felt that some of the staff on wheal fortune were rude, I will ensure that all members of staff will read this post and reflect on there actions, words and body language.

I am sorry that you have had the need to write this post at a time that should have been full of joy and happiness.

Yours Sincerely

Sarah Coe

Ward manager

Wheal Fortune.

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