"Negative experience"

About: University Hospital Lewisham / Maternity care

(as the patient),

Overall, my experience of giving birth here was somewhat negative. One positive - I felt supported and listened to when I went post-dates and was not prepared to be induced without medical need.

I had a straightforward, physiological birth of my first child. I spent most of the labour at home. I rang the MLU a number of times to tell them how my labour was progressing - I knew I was in active labour, but they did not agree with me as "I did not seem to be in enough pain" and my contractions were not following a regular pattern (there was never a uniform length of time between contractions, but I was having two to four every ten minutes, lasting a minute or more each for some time). I didn't feel this was a very good attitude towards normal birth to suggest that a woman couldn't be in labour unless she was writhing about and screaming in pain, but I did not go in because I was told firmly that "I would just be sent home".

Eventually, we decided to go in because the pain was unbearable. I started pushing involuntarily in the cab on the way there, which was frightening as a first time mother. When I arrived at the birth centre, I was taken into a triage room and had a midwife asking me to "just hop on the table" even though I was squatting on the floor and pushing. I felt helpless and ignored and was in crushing pain by this point. I feel a little traumatised that I was essentially not given access to pain relief for the most difficult part of my labour. Eventually, the midwife got a second midwife to help her, and she confirmed that I needed a delivery room.

According to my husband, one of the midwives who attended me did read my birth plan, although I understand that the other would not have had time. Despite it clearly stating my preferences for a calm environment and non-direct pushing, I had two midwives shouting PUSH PUSH! ! ! in my face and I found it distressing. I was also told I couldn't assume a squatting position because I was "too close to the floor" which never really made sense to me. After two hours of pushing in a position I didn't really want to be in, I was told that it was taking too long and "they would have to cut me". There was no mention or even implication that they would obtain consent for this - a midwife even waved a pair of scissors in my face. I believe the pushing stage took longer than it should have done because of the unnecessary stress. Luckily they did not cut me and my baby's head was born about 5 minutes later, so this was clearly unnecessary.

After the birth, I was given a series of terrible advice about breastfeeding including that I should just feed the baby for ten minutes each side, anything else is just comfort-sucking and they don't need it "you'll never be able to put her down if you let that happen! " which is frankly wrong and a bizarre thing to suggest about a baby a few hours old. I was also told that pain is normal, bleeding, cracked nipples are normal and that my baby did not have a tongue tie - by a paediatrician and several midwives. The GP and community midwives and health visitors who visited at home gave the same advice, so it seems to be a problem across Lewisham generally. Luckily, I realised that this could not possibly be true and ended up seeking private care to have my baby's tongue tie divided so we could feed normally.

I developed PND as a result of the birth, but mostly the pain and lack of support I experienced while trying to establish breastfeeding, while being made to feel that I was just a neurotic mother who couldn't cope with the normal reality of having a baby. I will have my next baby at home with a private midwife who is also a qualified lactation consultant who can divide tongue tie, to prevent the same thing happening.

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