"Shocking lessons in antenatal class"

About: Northwick Park Hospital

I had the most distressing experience in the second antenatal class organised in the hospital. I was completely shaken following the class and cried with fear of being looked after such incompetent staff at the hospital during my labour. Here are just some examples of what was said to us in the class: • “This is the birthing stool” (pointing to the bottom of the bed in the labour ward room) • “TENS machines were used in the 90s, hardly anybody uses them now. I haven’t seen one used for many years. • “Pethidine does not help with the pain, it just acts like a sedative. You will most likely sleep between contractions and wake up for the contraction” The midwife struggled to explain different effects of pain relief, kept checking the print outs, gave minimal information about side effects, was not able to provide any credible statistics, often could not say what is the name of the drug administered in a particular pain relief or induction process, referred to anecdotal and kept dropping in personal opinions about how “you don’t know what pain is until you experienced labour”. The midwife would latch onto explanations on how water birth is a good pain relief “because you can really relax in there”, at the same time unable to discuss in any helpful way the pain relief drugs or any other alternative techniques for pain management. The midwife contradicted on a number of occasions what the other midwife said in the first antenatal class, saying it was “rubbish” and not true. When I asked whether they had actually attended any births, the midwife said yes, that they were mainly on call for home delivery, but has not been in the labour ward for years, so can’t say much about the “high risk labours”. This was shocking to hear considering the midwife has been the one who was giving a class including the labour ward tour and explaining procedures during giving labour at the labour ward. The midwife would not provide complete answers to questions or cover topics from all angles. For example when talking about induction, there was no mention of the options for women who do not wish to have an induction, and only when probed admitted that if we do not agree to induction we will have to come to labour ward every day for checking. The midwife kept scaring us about how the available pain relief methods (only mentioned gas and air and Pethidine, suggesting we could try to use paracetamol in the early stage of labour), other than epidural, will not work for relief pain; how the induction if extremely painful, so “you should straight away ask for the epidural”; and how the procedures such as sweeping the membranes and having the epidural administered is very uncomfortable. I was shocked to see how little expert knowledge and professional experience this midwife demonstrated, and lost all confidence in the staff who will be looking after me in labour and how they will make crucial decisions about my well being.

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Response from Northwick Park Hospital

We were sorry to learn of your experiences. Your feedback will be passed on to the relevant managers so that they can take appropriate action. If you would like to raise your concerns with the Trust formally you can do so via email to nwlh-tr.patientrelations@nhs.net or in writing to the Chief Executive, Northwick Park Hospital, Watford Road, Harrow, Middlesex, HA1 3UJ.

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