"Promoting normality? Cascade of interventions more like..."

About: Whiston Hospital / Maternity care

(as the patient),

Six years after having my child at Whiston Hospital, I still have emotional scars from what I consider bad care from midwives and medical staff.

The antenatal care was good, I had the opportunity to attend parentcraft classes, and had regular appointments in my GP surgery with the community midwives. These usually ran to time, and I came across some lovely student midwives. Unfortunately the attitude from the community midwife could, at times be patronising, and upsetting. One particular memory which stands out, being told I would cut the air supply to my baby by wearing jeans that were too tight. As a 17 year old, who was spending every last penny I earned on items for a home for me, my partner, and my baby, I didn't have money to spend on maternity clothes, so chose to adapt the clothes I already had. Aside from the fact that she is completely incorrect (you simply can't cut the baby's oxygen supply off, since it comes from the placenta, and through the umbilical cord) it showed her lack of understanding of more vunerable and younger clients.

Other than this, my antental care ran smoothly. I attended for my term +10 appointment, in the early stages of labour (although I wasn't sure at the time). I was examined, and told I was 2cm dilated. The previous day I had attended with a hindwater leak (SROM not confirmed on speculum, but positive liqu-a-tec). I had planned to spend early labour at home, in comfortable surroundings, with the freedom to eat, drink, take baths, and spend time walking around. Instead I was told I was being transferred to the antenatal ward. Once on the antental ward, I spent more time on the CTG than off it. More time in bed due to said CTG than off it, and not a bite to eat. The only positive was that I had use of the bath.

Clinically, I was fine to be at home - despite the hindwater leak, I had no temperature, no signs of infection at all, and an active baby. Was I given the choice to go home? No. Instead, I was told that it was my age that I was admitted for.

So, there begins the cascade of intervention. After being on the CTG several times over the course of an evening, I was told to 'go to sleep'. Eventually, after hoping in and out of bed, wanting to be upright, I was re-examined, and sent to Labour Ward.

At 17, scared and alone (partner had been sent home earlier) I entered LW. At first, I thought how lovely the midwife seemed. She had an aura of understanding about her. Quickly though, I realised that she was either having to care for more than one labourer, or she couldn't be bothered offering support to me. 'If you are in that much pain at just 3cm, you are going to need an epidural, I would recommend you have one now'. Those were her exact words. Seed of doubt planted in my mind, I agreed, despite not actually wanting an epidural. I thought she must be right, I am creating a fuss, and obviously not coping.

I am sure what follows is no suprise (its not to me anymore). Epidural, synto, continous CTG, failure to progress in 2nd stage, off to theatre, failed ventouse, emergency c/s.

So, having come in a low risk primip, I left with a scar to my uterus, and a feeling of utter failure to follow my instincts. Who knows if I hadn't of had the epidural, what may of happened. I suspect this story would be different, even if the outcome remained the same - at least I would be intact in my mind, that I tried to achieve a normal birth. Instead, I feel that I let my child down, and let myself down by heading down the cascade of interventions. So, from the minute I stepped foot in the hospital, I was not supported to achieve normal birth - which surely should be at the heart of a midwives philosophy.

Breastfeeding failed (no suprise), bonding took a long time (no suprise) and my relationship with my partner suffered for a long time. Infact, to this day he feels that he let me down.

Postnatal ward was even worse. Having my c/s scar split in 3 places and a haemotoma led me to endure pain which was worse than contractions, and then be totally disbelieved that there was a problem left me an emotional wreck. It took 5 days for a sympathetic midwife to actually remove the bandage from my scar, remove the staples, and recognise the problem. Once it was diagnosed the care was excellent (even down to the previously not so good community midwife) but to be in pain for 5 days and be told 'oh its probably a UTI' when I knew it wasn't (having suffered from UTI's for years, I knew what the pain of a UTI felt like!). I couldnt walk from C bay to the toilet. I collapsed twice in pain, once on the way to the toilet, and again on the way back. I dropped my baby after picking him up, and then feeling the searing pain shoot through me, collapsing to the floor, unable to do anything else. I was 'forced' (you won't be going home 'til we have seen you do it) to bath my baby, in such incredible pain... what a nice thing to experience... bathing my baby with tears running down my face, holding on to myself feeling I was being torn apart (actually, I was!)

All the time, it was made out to be my imagination, over reacting 'you just need to stop sitting down, get out of bed and walk around'. All very helpful comments...!!

Breastfeeding support was limited, I did meet the breastfeeding co-ordinator, who at least tried various techniques with me. But the one thing she didn't have the ability to do, was to stop midwives and healthcare assistants undermining her efforts.

Contradicting advice from midwives was another problem. Now I am older and wiser, more self assured, I can cope with this. But as a young girl, I was afraid that if I didn't follow all the advice (swaddle your baby, don't swaddle your baby just one example) that somehow I would get criticised. I left after a 5 day stay, completely traumatised, in pain, and a shadow of my former self.

It took years of rebuilding to believe in my body, and my ability to birth. I am now well on the road to recovery, and am able to recount my story without too much heartache. This is all just the tip of the iceberg, and there is far more to this story than I have time to type. But it gives an idea of the standard of care.

It may be obvious to some who read this, but I am now a midwife myself, and would like to think that this story has made me the midwife I am today. Luckily I have been able to put my experiences aside when caring for women, but its always there as a reminder to me, to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

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