"Women Sexual Trauma and giving birth at UCLH"

About: University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

(as the patient),

I gave birth at UCLH In 2015..

I am a survivor of sexual violence and suffer from genital herpes after the abuse. I spent my whole pregnancy worrying about transmitting this virus to my baby. I felt the midwifes didnt care about my worries.

I feel that the hospital staff have to be better trained to support pregnant women who have been sexually abused. It wasnt until I was around 35 weeks pregnant that a midwife new to the team referred us to another midwife who specializes in working with women who have fear of giving birth. I would have liked to feel I had more choice about having a natural birth or a c-section and more information about this. I would have liked not to have to tell my story to so many midwifes. I feel your staff will benefit from learning more about the traumatic impact it has on survivors of abuse to have to tell their story so many times.

I was encouraged to have a natural birth and was adviced to take antiviral medication to suppress the herpes virus at the time of birth and I was told I will have support when in labour. It was a nightmare for me to get hold of medication because the midwifes kept telling me to ask my GP for the medication and the GP said the hospita should provide this for me at UCLH- I eventually got the medication from the sexual health clinic in a panic as was already 36 weeks pregnant and very worried about my baby being born without me taking the medication and transmitting this virus. I was told to write my story on my birth plan and when I tried to explore my worries for example fear of forceps deliveries or not being stitched properly after birth they told me I will have a choice and that my birth plan will be sent to the medical team as they take seriously emotional impact of these procedures on patients with a history of abuse.

I was told to come directly to the birth centre when in labour. Unfortunately when I was in labour I was sent to triage. I was told to wait for a little while until they could give me a room as they said they had no rooms at birth centre.

I felt I was going to give birth in the waiting room/ toilets in triage.

I waited 4 hours for a room and me and my husband did see a couple of rooms available in triage and eventually they agreed to give us one of the free rooms. I was terrified and in tears and I think this situation put a great deal of stress on me and my baby and family.

By the time I was given a room my baby had meconium and I was transferred to the labour ward. My baby was born by forceps he is nearly a year and still has a mark on his face. I also had complications with the episiotomy I feel I was not stitched properly because my stitches broke a couple of days after the birth and where infected and I didn't heal properly.

I dont believe they have at present the right support for pregnant women who have been sexually abused. I feel that doctors suggesting forceps to women who have been sexually abused should have more training to understand the emotional impact of this procedure and the importance of taking the time to explain reasons for this emergency procedure. I was never given the choice of an emergency c section for example and no one explained that was not possible either.

I'm still going to UCLH many months after the birth to physiotherapy as Im still in pain. im still having to tell my story to different people. During the pregnancy I explained to many midwifes that I had years of pelvic floor rehabilitation and my fears about having to go to physiotherapy again.

I feel my worries were not taken seriously. Luckily before the pregnancy I had 10 years of therapy because I dont think I could make sense of this otherwise. Im seriously worried about any other women coming to give birth at UCLH with a history of sexual abuse, I think the midwifes that I had when I was eventually given a room took the time to read my birth plan and did what they could in what it felt like a massive chaos and disagreements between medical team. I hope you do something about this I wish women with a history of abuse and sexually transmited diseases will be given more choice about how they want to give birth always making sure you also think about your patients emotional wellbeing.

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