"Bad experience of childbirth at Lewisham Hospital"

About: University Hospital Lewisham / Maternity care

(as the patient),

I had my first baby at Lewisham hospital in April this year. It was the most terrifying, confusing and demeaning experience I have to tell.

After being sent home after my waters had broken because i was not dilated. My contractions that started every ten minutes soon developed into every three minutes. I phoned the labour ward twice over a period of an hour as I was unable to tolerate the pain I was in. The second phone conversation was the worst and that is where the confusion began. Even though by this stage I was having contractions every two minutes and was clearly distressed, they told me that it sounded like I was only in the early stages and not to come in for a while yet. When I told them I couldn’t handle the pain and was extremely frightened as it was my first baby the midwife answered, "Your scared of being in labour?" I said yes. She said "Well there is nothing we can do for you here. except examine you, but that is all."

I was so confused and frightened.

I left for the labour ward after that conversation. When I got there I said to the midwife at the desk that I had called about half an hour ago. She said to me, " Oh I know, you called a few times".

After waiting for a short period the midwife took me into a room which was just off the side of the waiting room (it was more like an office). When I came in earlier that evening I was taken to a labour room, and another woman who was in the waiting room with me was also taken to a labour room. I felt like she was making a point that she was not going to treat me like everyone else. After being examined and monitored she told me to go home because I wasn’t dilated. I told her I wasn’t going anywhere, as I felt I needed to be in hospital. She told me I should get some sleep. I will point out now that when she told me this it was only about three hours before I gave birth. I than asked for pain relief and all she offered me was paracetamol. I asked for something stronger and she told me no. just minutes earlier she watched me climbing a water pipe on the wall I was in that much pain. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me.

After agreeing to let me stay she took me to a room which was dark and had two or three other woman asleep in it, as it was early hours of the morning. When my partner asked her what do we do now she told us someone would be back at about seven thirty in the morning to examine me, which wouldn’t have been a lot of help because my daughter was actually born at six-thirty in the morning.

We were just left there alone it was dark I couldn’t make a noise or walk around because there were other women asleep ( they all woke up shortly though), the midwife made it clear that no one would be coming back for me, all I could do was go into the bathroom where I could turn on the light and slap myself to take my mind off the pain. I was so terrified. Antenatal classes could have never have prepared me for this. I thought if they were not going to give me pain relief that they would at least offer me a bath, or offer me some verbal support here and there. Instead I was put in a dark room and left, I couldn’t even relax in between contractions I was that scared that I was going to give birth alone.

After about forty minutes of being in that room I couldn’t hide the pain anymore andI began to become vocal. My partner and I walked back to the desk were a different midwife was sitting and I begged her for some pain relief. While I was doing this I cried during a contraction and a midwife came out of an opposite room and made a real show of giving me a shocked look, it was really intimidating.

The midwife on the desk reluctantly agreed to examine me and when she did I was seven centimetres dilated. Only under an hour ago I was told to go home and than left in a dark room without pain relief.

They took me into a labour room where I was actually given some gas and I gave birth an hour and fifteen minutes later.

After being left alone by the first midwife I never saw her again. What scares me is if I had taken any advise from her I surely would have given birth outside of the hospital.

I did complain and received a letter back form the hospital. They were sorry that I was in distress and that I was not given adequate pain relief and that a particular midwife expressed remorse for not offering me more sympathy or empathy. But that's all. No mention of the attitudes of the staff, or me being abandoned in that dark room, or what could have happened if I had gone home when they told me to. Which isn’t good enough.

I would like a full response to my complaint and I would like to be advised of what action is going to be taken to stop them from doing this to someone else. I replay this experience in my head most of the day every day. I don’t understand how they could have treated me like this? I was in labour with my first baby and extremely vulnerable and in a lot of need.

From the first phone conversation with them they made it very clear that they thought I was exaggerating the pain. But what right do they have to make that decision? Surely its not just a coincidence that I was forty-one weeks pregnant and my waters had broken only a few hours earlier?

I look back on my birth as a humiliating experience, but I'm angry because I know it should not have to be that way.

I was a healthy twenty-three year old who arrived at the hospital only four and a half hours before I gave birth, and despite the treatment of the staff at Lewisham I had a simple labour. I think it should be pointed out to them that there are far worse things that can happen to a woman in labour than her coming to the hospital too early.

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