"The birth of my baby"

About: Birmingham Women's Hospital / Gynaecology

(as the patient),

In a nutshell, due to staff shortages (Easter 2010) at Birmingham Women's Hospital, I ended up having an extremely long tedious labour, and throughout had various annoyances due to not being given information, insufficient staff and unhelpful policies. Although some of the staff that looked after us were great, some were not so helpful or even sympathetic.

This was my first child, and when my waters broke on a Tuesday afternoon, I imagined that I would soon be having a baby. Not so: I ended up in and out of hospital, then I was stuck in an induction queue on the pre natal ward from Thursday morning until Saturday lunchtime, when we finally got down to the Delivery Suite. I eventually gave birth very late on Saturday night.

At every point from Thurs AM until we get to the Delivery Suite, we were promised that we would be going down every few hours, until we just gave up hope and stopped asking. I was contracting every 5 minutes, so it was hardly a laugh being stuck on the ward, plus we'd been told that because my waters had broken there was a risk of infection, so I had to stay in hospital, so every hour that passed was more worrying. The staff shortages were such that there was only one midwife on duty at night, and the woman in the bed opposite almost gave birth on the ward because she was much further along than anyone noticed, and was wanting to push while there was no midwife on duty (she'd gone downstairs to take another woman to Delivery Suite). These experiences did not give us any confidence in the process, nor did the fact that no-one explained anything to us on arrival on the ward (not even where the loo was); the ward was pretty dirty; the loo door was broken; the tap kept breaking; no-one told us there were birthing balls available (another patient told us) and the food (I'm a vegetarian) was pretty dire.

Unfortunately, the very long wait meant that my baby (who had been in the correct position on first admittance) turned during labour and was back to back, which wasn't initially noticed for the first 8 hours or so of full on induced labour. It was only when I started bleeding badly that I was re-examined and our midwife realised what was going on. If our midwife hadn't been so quick thinking, it could have turned out much worse. I'm quite cross about this: I spent hours pacing the hospital corridors at 5am trying to bring on labour, but as my baby was back to back I was actually making it worse. It seems odd to assume that a baby hasn't turned during a lengthy labour.

After giving birth, my placenta was retained and I was eventually taken off for an operation (then wheeled out before they started as they had an emergency caesarian to do, then wheeled back in), eventually arriving on the ward around in the early hours of Sunday morning, disorientated and very sick from the drugs, having been given a spinal block. My partner was asked to leave immediately, leaving me utterly helpless, clutching a baby. The first thing that happened after he left was that I was sick all down myself and my baby: the midwife merely shrugged, took my sick bowl off me and shut my curtain, leaving me to clean myself up. Utterly miserable. I didn't even get any anti sickness drugs until after the drugs round later that day (about 5 hours later). It seems completely insane not to let partners/husbands stay on the ward, particularly where women are unable to move and where there in my opinion just aren't enough midwives to answer everyone's calls. I had to call a midwife when my baby choked a few hours later, and fortunately she did come in time to help, but it freaked me out.

Being left without my partner and being unable to move also meant that I had trouble establishing breastfeeding, because I couldn't pick my baby up or put my baby down by myself. I was frightened to sleep with my baby in my arms because I was so utterly exhausted, having been in labour for 60+ hours: if my partner had been on hand, he could have helped so much. I battled and battled and managed eventually to sort out breastfeeding, but it took 2 months before it wasn't miserable.

The women on my ward were all post-surgical so also a bit dazed, but there needs to be a policy on not watching TV without headphones: the woman on the bed next to me had her partner and family visit, and watched football and Jeremy Kyle at top volume for hours and hours. I should have said something but I just hid in my cubicle and desperately wished to get home.

All in all, it was a very unpleasant experience. I have no intention of having another child because I can't face going through that again.

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Response from Kathryn Bishop, Birmingham Women's NHS Foundation Trust

Dear icantbeleiveyouknowckedmeup,

Thank you very much for your comments. We will look further into matters, and will be back in touch with you as soon as possible.

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Response from Kathryn Bishop, Birmingham Women's NHS Foundation Trust We have made a change

Thank you for taking the time to leave us your feedback. I am very sorry that your experience with us at Birmingham Women’s Hospital was as you described.

As I said in reply to the previous posting, I cannot comment on the details of your case. However, please feel free to contact us directly if you would like us to explore your issues in greater depth. You can either call me on 0121 623 6855 or you can email complaintsbwh@bwhct.nhs.uk.

Your comments help us to improve our services so I would like to share with you how we have addressed each point and changes that have been made since Easter 2010.

Not being given enough information

Staff understand that providing information to patients and their relatives is crucial in helping them to feel safe, supported and calm and endeavor to keep women informed. It is sometimes difficult to give a definite answer for example in the case of timing of transfer to delivery suite. Fluctuations in numbers of labouring women and clinical emergencies can result in changes to plans, as in the case of transfer for induction and in rare cases on route to theatre, but I do not cite this as an excuse for not keeping you up-to-date. As a Trust we are currently looking into training to help staff look at and improve on their communication skills.

To help women feel more welcome on arrival we have designed a welcome pack which will be available shortly to read on the end of each bed. This will let patients know what is available for their comfort, who to tell when they find something is unsatisfactory (eg cleanliness, broken doors). It will also tell women that they can have a private conversation with a member of our catering team about their dietary needs. We are also recruiting volunteers to the postnatal wards to help midwifery staff attend to the comfort needs of mother’s there.

Insufficient staff.

I am sorry that your experiences made you feel that we were understaffed. We do have good staff-to-patient ratios but the busy nature of the maternity care can give a different impression. The numbers of women attending naturally fluctuates throughout the days and weeks and so we have a policy to cover busy periods and staff sickness with a movement of staff from less acute areas to the delivery departments. Also, in December 2010 we appointed a bed coordinator who helps manage the flow of patients; ensuring that movement from antenatal through delivery and to postnatal is constant. This frees the midwives, who previously managed this role, to care for women directly.

Unhelpful policies

It is hard to balance the needs of all the women on the postnatal wards in relation to the visiting times. We try to provide a restful atmosphere where they can feel comfortable. Some ladies feel awkward with male visitors around. We are looking into adjusting the times and bringing in special ‘passes’ to extend the times in special circumstances. Flexibility is promoted when it comes to partners visiting out-of-hours when babies have just been delivered and mothers have just been transferred.

I am sorry that you have been given cause to complain. Thank you for your feedback. We do take comments seriously and I hope you can see that we have made changes as a result of previous patients’ complaints.

Please do not hesitate to make contact via the routes given above if you have further issues you wish addressed.

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