"Poor experience overall"

About: Forth Valley Royal Hospital / Maternity unit

(as the patient),

After an induction at several days overdue I went into labour in the early hours of the morning. I was put onto a pitocin drip straight away with the only explanation for this being that I could be in labour for ages otherwise.

I was taken to the maternity ward with waters running down my leg onto the floor and having contractions with a midwife who sighed when I said I needed to stop because I was in pain.

In the labour suite I was on my back and unable to move due to continual monitoring. I was given gas and air which caused me to vomit immediately and for hours afterwards. When I mentioned this to a member of staff I was told that it wouldn't be that as I was probably just prone to vomiting.

My birth plan had mentioned that I wanted as few people in the room as possible, however this was not what happened. Members of staff were in and out of the room constantly while I was in labour, usually to ask each other questions and at one point I had five members of staff in the room.

At no point did anyone discuss my birth plan with me at all; so much emphasis was put on this during my antenatal classes and in the end it seemed like there was absolutely no point to it. I found this extremely distressing but was unable to say so at the time due to the amount of pain I was in. I was then given an epidural which failed to take down one side. When I mentioned this to a member of staff, I felt they did not take this seriously in any way. At one point a member of staff went to turn up the drip on my contractions and I said that I wouldn't have this treatment until I had seen the anesthetist again. The member of staff told me in a patronising tone that i had to have it, while going to turn it up anyway. At this point I panicked and said NO, I don't want it, I'm not having it to which the member of staff said Right. Fine. turned it right down without another word and then sat for the next ten minutes writing notes without speaking to me and seemingly angry that I would not do what was wanted.

I cannot emphasis how distressing I found this; to feel that this member of staff was going to go ahead and go against my wishes. I feel that if I had not known that I was able to refuse treatment, the member of staff would have gone ahead with this despite the fact that I had withdrawn my consent. For months afterwards I had panic attacks about this incident and still find this very upsetting to think about.

Due to a failure to progress I was eventually given an emergency c section. This was a largely positive experience with kind staff who listened to me and were professional throughout. However shortly after my section it was discovered that my daughter had contracted a potentially very serious infection and would need to go onto intravenous antibiotics. This was the beginning of a long hospital stay.

The care I received during this time was very varied, however much of it fell far below the minimum standards of care and empathy I would expect, as someone who works in a care profession themselves.

The respect for privacy throughout my stay was atrocious. I had people walk into my room unannounced frequently. This happened whilst I was trying to breastfeed, whilst I was changing my clothes and at times when I was in tears. As a result of this, I was constantly on edge, expecting someone to barge into my room at any moment. I raised this with a member of staff who genuinely didn't seem to grasp why this might be a problem, saying they could only apologise with folded arms and rolling their eyes. To be fair, I then raised this with a manager who seemed very angry and was apologetic, however I found it upsetting that I was having to explain basic good practice to a member of staff in the first instance.

I also did not sleep for the majority of my stay, to the point where I was concerned for my health, which is an issue that I raised many times. After not sleeping for five days, I raised this with a member of staff who told me I needed to TRY and sleep, as if this was something that had not already occurred to me.

It was only when I insisted on speaking to a Doctor that I received any treatment for this and even then, I went five hours before I was able to see one.

In the meantime I was sitting in my room alone, terrified of holding my baby in case I suddenly passed out through exhaustion. I feel that had I not asked to see a Doctor, I would have been allowed to continue as I had been, and sent home after not having slept for the duration of my stay, which would have put myself and my child at risk. I feel that before I was seen by a doctor, my extreme lack of sleep was not being taken seriously, that I was at risk of harm and that the staff failed in their duty of care towards me. As a vulnerable new mother I feel that I should not have been the one to recognise that I was now in need of medical intervention.

My breastfeeding support was also poor and I still feel very guilty that I was unable to establish prolonged breastfeeding with my baby. I was given incorrect advice on breastfeeding by a member of staff, and told that by by day 3-4 I really needed to be feeding for 40 minutes. According to current guidelines on breastfeeding, which define successful breastfeeding as anything between 5 and 40 minutes, this is incorrect. I now know that the member of staff was giving incorrect advice but at the time I took their word for it. At this time I was extremely distressed and said to through tears I'm trying as hard as I can to which the member of staff said I'd just need to keep trying before leaving the room.

Throughout my stay not one person seemed to have any in depth knowledge about breastfeeding, at times the advice was conflicting and for the most part I was mostly just told to try and move my baby into a different position. At one point as I was told by a member of staff that I was doing everything right when this clearly wasn't the case.

My baby was becoming increasingly distressed and jaundiced and at no point did any one suggest there could be any sort of issue (for example tongue tie). I was just told to keep trying.

I was later able to establish breastfeeding for a short amount of time when I discovered that due to flat nipples my baby was finding it difficult to latch on, however I feel that if I had had better, more empathetic advice at the start, I could have fed more successfully.

I should mention that I received some truly excellent care from some very kind people at the hospital. Sister Irene stands out in particular as listening to me, talking to me like a person (as opposed to "Mum") and giving excellent, friendly care. I had one midwife who took the time to sit with me and tell me about her own difficult experience with breastfeeding and I still feel very touched by her kindness. And another who brought me in a pair of earplugs to try and help me sleep. These people stand out in particularly and I'm very grateful for their excellent care.

However, the majority of my care was not like this. I feel there are aspects of my care that if I were to behave similar in my own care profession, I would be utterly ashamed of. It is only now that I feel I can talk about this experience at any great length and plan I raise formal complaints about my care, in particular the member of staffs attempts to administer more pitocin against my consent, at a later date when I feel able to.

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Response from Gail Bell, Deputy Head of Midwifery, Women and Children, NHS Forth Valley

Dear melodysays.

Thank you for finding the courage to share your experience. I was really sad to read your story and very sorry that you had such distressing experiences before and after the birth of your baby which shouldn’t have been the case. It seems like we didn’t take the time to listen to how you felt and what you wanted to happen.

Obviously there are things that we didn’t get right but I’m also glad to see that some of our staff showed you the care and compassion you deserved throughout.

I appreciate that it has taken you some time to put your difficult experience into words and that you are considering a formal complaint too. I’d like to make sure that we learn from what you’ve shared with us on Patient Opinion and I’d really appreciate you getting in contact with me on gailbell@nhs.net to allow me to review your care and hopefully I can reassure you in person that we will give your experience serious attention.

In the meantime I will also be sharing your story with the midwifery team: I know this will be a difficult story for them to read too. We will take time to look at all the issues you have mentioned and think about things we might need to do differently. It will be a good opportunity to remind us all about important aspects of care we provide including listening to patient wishes, taking the time to discuss birth plans and preferences whether in writing or not and to ensure consistent breastfeeding advice and support. I would like to get back to you when we’ve had time to do this.

Again I am so sorry that you had this experience at what should have been the happiest time in your life. I really hope you do feel able to get in touch with me. Thank you.

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