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"something I wish to forget, but cannot."

About: Stoke Mandeville Hospital

What I liked

The midwives in the labour room came across as genuinely caring and warm. The labour room was pleasant and felt like a "safe" place in which to birth.

What could be improved

The post-natal care was terrible. I developed obstetric cholestasis in the 39th week of pregnancy & needed to be induced. One intervention led to another & I ended up with a long traumatic back labour, followed by epidural, forced abduction (feet on midwives shoulders) & episiotomy. As a result of the birth, possibly of the forced abduction, I have experienced chronic & debilitating pelvic girdle pain ever since (now 21 months since birth). I was kept in the postnatal ward for a week to monitor the cholestasis; during this time the pelvic pain & instability was so severe that I was barely able to walk. I was in agony & only able to get myself to the toilet and move around in order to care for my baby with extreme pain. I experienced a marked lack of support, empathy & understanding of this kind of post-natal problem. (which incidentally is not an uncommon problem). I was in tears at one point in the night having got halfway to the toilet & unable to go further as my pelvis wouldn't support me. The degree of disinterest demonstrated by nursing staff was very traumatic. I could get meals only if one of the more caring nurses thought to fetch a tray of food for me as I couldn't manage the walk down the corridor. I found reaching over to the cot to pick up my baby almost impossible & in a cruel twist of poor design the buzzer to summon help was located too far away for me to reach it from the bed! I couldn't always manage to get out of bed & walk to it. When I did manage to summon help at night the attitude of some of the staff on duty made it quite clear that you were being a nuisance. When someone is in extreme pain after a traumatic birth & unable to get to their crying baby to lift them up I find it extraordinary that a person in a caring profession can be so uncaring.

Anything else?

I was in absolute agony on the day I left the hospital; my husband requested a wheelchair to get me to the car park but we were told that if I couldn't walk to the car I couldn't leave, as it would show I was not able to cope at home. This seemed absurd as I was getting so little support and help on the ward, particularly at night-time, whereas at home we could be cared for around the clock by my husband. Whilst on the post-natal ward I had a brief visit from someone who assessed by pelvic instability & said I would be referred to a physiotherapist. However this turned out to be a non-manual physio at the hospital (several weeks later) who simply checked the degree of abdominal diastasis & told me to do pelvic floor exercises. It was only a year after the birth (after useless visits to gynaecology at Stoke Mandeville & my own GP) that I chanced upon an article in The Guardian about pelvic girdle pain caused during labour. From there I found the Pelvic Partnership support group & on their advice received treatment from a manual physiotherapist and an osteopath. By this time I had referred pain shooting down my legs, numbness & bowel incontinence in addition to pelvic pain. If I had been treated immediately after the birth I could have avoided these symptoms & wouldn't have been in constant pain in the first year of my child's life. I feel strongly that maternity services at Stoke Mandeville need to improve their knowledge & treatment of postnatal pelvic problems. A further comment - breastfeeding support in the postnatal ward was rushed & scanty, so that by the time I left hospital I had developed blood blisters on my nipples which caused me to develop the agonising condition breast thrush - which then was passed on to my baby - causing two months of avoidable pain & discomfort for us both.

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