"Hugely contrasting maternity services"

About: Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow / Maternity care

(as the patient),

I am posting about my personal maternity experience at the Southern General Hospital in 2013.

Firstly, I would just like to say that my experiences of antenatal outpatient care was very positive. So too, was my care within the ward when I was taken in to be induced with my first child. Once I was transferred to the Labour Suite, the doctors, midwives and their care was second to none - truly superb. I felt in completely safe hands especially from my midwife, Melanie, who was fabulous. Even though my labour and birth were particularly traumatic, I can't at any point fault how I was managed right up until I was being looked after in the recovery room.

Sadly, once I was moved to the Postnatal Ward, it was a completely different story and I felt very traumatised for at least the first three weeks of my son's life.

After an (initially unwanted) epidural with three top ups, rushed into theatre for an emergency caesarian which resulted in an episiotomy and a vaginal forceps delivery, I was put into a four bed ward with no other patients. This was a good thing due to have the entire space to myself and a bad thing. The ward had no light in the toilet which was especially difficult at night as it was pitch black. I had a catheter attached and had to drag this behind me as I held open the door of the toilet with a bin so I could access some of the light from the corridor. I was told by the midwives that I could use the toilet with a working light in the next ward but as this meant going outside into the corridor whilst bleeding over the floor and leaving my son unattended, this was not practical in the slightest and I made do with what I had. After having had a forceps delivery and stitches, the doctor stitching me up had told me in the theatre to take all of my pain relief that she would be prescribing and not let the breakthrough pain get a hold. However, for the first 24 hours of my time in the postnatal ward, due to some miscommunication, I was only written up for paracetamol which did absolutely nothing to alleviate the huge amount of pain and discomfort I was in. My baby had been born at 6. 30am in the morning but by midnight that night, there was still nothing done about my pain relief. The midwifes said they had sent a message to the doctor in charge and that they would try to get them to write up the pain relief I should have been getting. The next morning and still nothing and I was told that the doctor had been caught up in theatre all through the night and so was not able to write me up my proper pain prescription.

I was bleeding a lot all over the floor of the ward, which I was cleaning up myself with my foot on a towel. All this on top of trying to attend to the first night of my son's life cleaning his meconium and trying to establish breastfeeding. Despite being completely isolated in this ward myself with my new son, I was not able to have either my partner or mother stay with me to assist under these difficult circumstances. I was told this was usually to prevent other mums and babies in the ward from being disturbed by outside visitor. But instead, it seemed that staff thought it was preferable for me to be completely isolated with my new child in the ward without anyone at all, not even any other new mums there.

As regards breastfeeding, having researched this a lot myself during pregnancy and attending some of the antenatal appointments for breastfeeding, I felt that I had been able to get my baby to latch on to at least one of my breasts but the other one unsuccessfully. I asked the opinions of the midwives on duty on separate occasions through the evening and through the night. Three separate midwives observed me and reassured me that I was successfully latching my baby onto my right breast but agreed not the left.

Also through the night, I was in so much pain that I practically begged the midwife, if I could have the catheter removed. She was understanding but explained that the catheter had to remain attached for the first 24 hours following birth. I told her that I understood that but that I was in so much pain from only being given paracetamol and no proper pain relief made available to me as yet. She was sympathetic but said there was very little she could do.

For my whole first 24 hours I would say that I was very much left to my own devices and spent long periods of time without anyone coming to check on us.

After an awful first night, I was relieved when my mother and partner could come into the ward to help me. I was very upset by all of the circumstances. I wanted to discharge myself out of the ward so I could get to the comfort and safety of my own home with my family support but knew that I couldn't before having all of the checks carried out on my baby.

Thankfully, everything regarding my baby was fine and the paediatrician was very satisfied. However, I was still trying to establish breastfeeding and was concerned that I was unable to latch my baby on to my other breast and that my supply from only one breast might not be enough. I had requested one particular midwife spend a very little time with me when she could, just to see what was going wrong. She told me to keep trying on my own despite the fact I had already been doing so for 24 hours. At one point, I asked her if she would PLEASE spend five minutes with me to observe and point me in the right direction as I was rapidly losing my confidence and becoming very anxious that my son was not receiving enough nourishment. She point blank refused and told me to buzz her once I had latched my baby on. I knew that if I buzzed any of the midwifes it would be some time before anyone actually came through so I was reluctant and said that it would be much easier for everyone if she would just check with me now. Again she refused.

Some time later, I was extremely unhappy and desperate to get home. I was asking every member of staff to move things along so I could get out. I was told that I was supposed to be in the postnatal ward at least another day if not more. This was unthinkable to me as I was terrified at spending another night like the one before in the ward. Eventually, the perinatal doctor who had been seeing me throughout my pregnancy came to see me to make sure I was ok. The doctor is fantastic and listens to what you have to say and is very supportive. He was more than happy with me and how things were and that he could see no issue as to why I couldn't get out. My mother and partner were with me after this in the ward. The midwife I had asked to help me with breastfeeding, came again around ten minutes following the doctor's visit, saying that she had heard I wanted out asap and that she was not happy with this. She said that she could not let me be discharged until she felt happy and satisfied that 'that wee baby' (mine) was 'being fed properly'. As a 40 year old woman having her first child and who had been very anxiously trying hard and had pleaded with her to help me, she was extremely condescending and belittling of me. I told her I couldn't spend another evening in the ward given all the aforementioned circumstances and needed to be home to have the help and support of my partner and mother. She then proceeded to say 'well let me check your breastfeeding now then' in a very aggressive manner. I accepted her help. After observing my breastfeeding attempt, she declared 'you're baby is jaundiced! you've not been feeding him properly! ' and proceeded to grab the back of my baby's neck in a very forceful manner and pushed his face right into my left breast to the point he let out a loud cry. I know you need to be assertive with positioning the baby's head but this was ridiculous. I became very upset and protested and started to cry. By this point, we were raising our voices very loudly at one another. My partner and mother were appalled at what was happening and were trying to intervene but were keen just to get me and my baby out of the ward and home. The midwife stated that she would need to do a check to see if my baby was indeed jaundiced. Of course, he wasn't as the paediatrician had already checked and was satisfied.

Despite the midwife's protestations to keep me in the ward for another day or two, I got myself out of there and went home. I was extremely upset for the first four days at home. I completely lost confidence in my ability to breastfeed and asked my family to bring in formula for my baby as I was so anxious he wasn't receiving adequate feeds. I had community support for the first two weeks which was brilliant. I never really recovered my confidence in breastfeeding as a direct result of my postnatal ward experience although I didn't give up entirely trying. But I managed to express for the first six months of my baby's life at which point I gave up as it was taking up too much time that could have been better spent bonding and nurturing my baby in other ways with a much less stressed mum.

I did intend to issue a formal complaint as regards all of the above and the main individual midwife concerned but I was just too upset for many months afterwards and then after time passed, I just wanted to forget about all of it and move on with my family.

The only reason I am telling this story here now is because I am now 33 weeks pregnant with my second child, due to be born at the Southern General around in October 2015 and I am terrified of being back in the postnatal ward again. I am already thinking of how I can get out of the hospital as quickly as possible following my child's birth no matter what the birth experience entails.

There is something clearly wrong when you have such hugely contrasting experiences within the same maternity service.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Lorna Gray, Patient Experience, Public Involvement Project Manager, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Dear almostmumof2,

You have given such a detailed account of your last experience of our maternity services and I am so sorry that you felt so let down by this.

There are many aspects of your experience which we really need to look into more, and in particular, would like to hear more from you about, especially as you will very soon be back in the maternity hospital very soon.

I would appreciate if you could get in touch with me directly so that I can try to help find a way forward with you. My email address is lorna.gray@ggc.scot.nhs.uk.

I hope to hear from you soon,

Best Wishes,


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