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"Experience of the postnatal ward"

About: Maternity care / Post-Natal wards (E and Johnston house)

(as a service user),

I had just had my first baby that morning and was in a lot of pain. I wasn't given any painkillers so had to use my own paracetamol. Many hours later a midwife asked how my pain was and I asked for painkillers as I'd used mine up (had brought some for labour). It took about 2 hours to get me 2 paracetamol. I wasn't offered any again, had to ring the buzzer and be ignored for half an hour each time.

Food came while I was feeding the baby and was taken away before I had a chance to eat. I had to wheel my own bag out of hospital as well as carry the baby in a car seat as my husband was told to leave the ward . I couldn't get down to my bag to get things like nappies, maternity pads and fresh clothes out but the answer to any requests for help was to ask me how I will manage at home (erm people will help me? ! ) so I spent the entire 29 hours covered in blood.

I dressed my baby for the first time on a bloodstained bed as it wasn't changed. The night time was noisy not just from other babies but from the midwives having loud conversations. The curtains around my bed were opened and shut at random regardless of my wishes. I remember breastfeeding standing up because I was too sore to sit and just being in the middle of an open ward in full view of at least 20 people inside as well as a group of men outside at a bus stop. I bled on the floor of the toilet when I arrived and it hadn't been cleaned when I left.

Nobody would help me get things out of my bag and I really struggled to lean down to it so I had to lift it up onto the bed myself - really really bad idea when you've just given birth as you're very vulnerable to long term damage like prolapse.

As a first time mother, with antenatal classes having been cancelled due to Covid pandemic, I needed advice support and encouragement. For example with breastfeeding. I asked for latching help but was told pain was normal. I was told to feed on demand then hours later when my baby was still asleep I was asked why I hadn't woken to feed. A midwife said I was not changing the baby's nappy enough but when I went down the ward looking for water I was told I should stay in my area and should not be carrying the baby in the corridor as it was putting the midwives at risk.

Nobody would watch the baby for me while I used the toilet - at 3 hours old I was expected to leave a brand new baby alone in a busy public area. Eventually a midwife agreed to comfort her if she cried, but I returned to a screaming frantic baby and tried hard not to pee for the rest of the time of the ward.

The cot she had been put in had incredibly high sides and did not work at all for breastfeeding, I kept having to haul myself up using the remote for the bed, then try stand to be able to lift her out, then try to balance her somehow on the very high single bed as I tried to climb in with no hands. There was nowhere else to feed her.

There was no possibility of sleep from the noise and just incredibly bright lights. Nobody checked my wound. I returned home and the following day the community midwife told me it was badly bruised and had opened.

I also left hospital with cracked bleeding nipples due to a poor latch. People always tell the story of how terrified they were leaving hospital with their first baby. I can't emphasise how relieved I was to get home to where I had some hope of being able to eat, sleep, feed the baby, reach basics like nappies, return to basic hygiene and access basic pain relief.


Response from Heather Watson, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust 2 months ago
Heather Watson
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Submitted on 04/06/2021 at 11:32
Published on Care Opinion at 12:23

Dear Newma

I would like to thank you for taking the time to share with us your feedback on your experience on our postnatal ward. I was sorry to hear that the experience you described on the ward was not as you expected; indeed, it was not how we would expect it to be. In order to ensure we learn from your feedback and make changes in the light of it, I would like the opportunity to discuss your experience with you in more detail. My name is Heather Watson; I am the lead Midwife for the postnatal ward. My email is and my phone number is 07787808506. I know you will be extremely busy at present caring for your new baby but if you could spare the time to contact me I feel, it would be extremely valuable to us as we seek to improve our services in the future. I can assure you that your anonymity will be preserved during this contact. I hope you and your baby are well and I look forward to hearing from you.

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Response from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust 2 days ago
Submitted on 03/08/2021 at 10:36
Published on Care Opinion at 17:15

As the Infant Feeding Lead in Royal Jubilee Maternity Service, can I just reiterate what Heather has said. I would encourage you to contact her and meet with her to provide clarity around your individual experience. We value all feedback and when our clients feel let down we want to understand what has happened and what steps we can take to improve our care. I wish to comment on your concerns around breastfeeding support.

Midwives are expected to attend regular update sessions in Infant Feeding Support and in response to your concerns I will endeavour to ensure the North Belfast Midwives have attended recently. The COVID pandemic did interfere with these sessions during 2020 but they were reinstated albeit virtually in early 2021. I will also reiterate the process to refer for Specialist support to ensure future mothers experiencing feeding challenges are promptly referred for additional help.

Thank you again for highlighting your concerns and I hope that you and your family continue to be safe and well at this time.

Barbara Spratt

Infant Feeding Lead

BHSCT Maternity Services

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