By Eddie Jones, Head of Clinical Negligence at JMW Solicitors.
Giving birth is a life-changing experience that can be extremely distressing if it follows a course that was unexpected or unwanted. JMW Solicitors’ clinical negligence team questioned more than 600 women with children about their birth experience in an NHS hospital and this is what they found.
The survey results highlighted vast differences in the type of experience that women have faced. Some 51% of women giving birth in NHS hospitals rated their overall care as ‘excellent’ and 35% said it was ‘good’.
Women’s experience of birth in an NHS hospital
Almost a quarter (24%) of women giving birth in NHS hospitals had a good experience, describing it as ‘extremely positive’, while 41% said it was ‘positive’. Only 9% of women said their experience was ‘extremely negative’, while 11% said it was ‘negative’. Some 16% of respondents said their experience of giving birth was neither ‘positive or negative’.
A new mother who had a positive experience said: “The staff were brilliant in a really traumatic situation. We were well looked after and, ultimately, they saved my life.”
When asked what aspects of their birth could have been improved, the majority (31%) said ‘nothing’, while others made the following suggestions:
- Improvements to the treatment received by members of staff – 19%
- The number of staff present at the birth – 15%
- Not having to ‘share’ a ward – 15%
- Improved waiting times – 8%
Were you offered any mental health support?
JMW also asked survey participants if they felt like the hospital had offered adequate mental health support before, during and after birth, with almost two-fifths (38%) saying ‘no’ – 30% said they were offered adequate mental health support, while 19% said ‘I don’t know’ and 14% said ‘maybe’.
Here are three women’s stories who experienced a lack of mental health support:
“My notes said that counselling or support was not required – I was never offered it and it was never discussed.”
“I asked for help on the postnatal ward as I knew I was not okay, but was told there was no help available until I visited my GP.”
“I was very shocked and traumatised after my birthing experience and this was not recognised at all. Although I was deeply upset by everything that happened, it was brushed over as it was just part of a ‘normal day at the office’. I have since been diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
Did a birthing plan adequately prepare you for birth?
Almost half of women who gave birth in a NHS hospital had a birthing plan for their most recent birth, with 53% of these saying their birth experience had met expectations outlined in the plan, and 47% saying it hadn’t.
One respondent whose birthing plan didn’t meet the expectations of the delivery said: “I was not aware of the risks of instrumental delivery so my birth plan was flawed – I never considered scenarios where instruments would be needed. I was led to believe that it was always best to avoid a caesarean section. Now I know otherwise.
“All this meant that my consent was assumed and the risks of instruments were never explained to me. The aftermath of my birth is how I found out.”
Treatment before, during and after birth
Regarding the care they received while on the maternity ward, the survey data suggested most new mothers had a positive experience. The results revealed that 51% of women rated their care as ‘excellent’, 35% said it was ‘good’, 14% said ‘average’, 7% said ‘bad’, and 4% said ‘extremely bad’.
One respondent had this to say about her treatment: “My midwife was someone we had grown to know throughout my pregnancy. I trusted her, and she was happy to listen to what I wanted, balanced with the needs of the pregnancy, because, of course, all pregnancies develop differently, as do all births.”
In relation to the information provided regarding physical recovery, 60% of mothers believed they were given enough information following the birth of their baby, while 30% said it was inadequate.
A new mother who described the information as inadequate said: “I was given no support in getting mobile again after surgery. I was told to get up and get my own breakfast the following day, even though my epidural had not fully worn off. When I asked for help at night, my baby was taken away to a nursery so I couldn’t attempt to breastfeed.”
What can I do if mistakes are made?
Giving birth is a life-changing experience that can take a huge physical and emotional toll on the mother. Of course, all births are different and there can be no way of predicting what can happen, but it is vital that the standard of care given is consistent.
When accidents occur during pregnancy or birth due to the negligence of the doctors and midwives providing the care, the injuries caused can have a devastating impact on both mother and child. If you have experienced negligence during pregnancy or birth, and you or your baby have suffered avoidable injuries, you are entitled to challenge these failures through legal action
Bringing a medical negligence claim is not just about receiving compensation, although this can be vital if long-term care is required and independence has been lost. It can help to ensure that other families don’t have to go through the trauma that you’ve experienced by helping to ensure that lessons are learned. For more information on making a claim, visit the JMW Solicitors website.
Carla is the founder of MyBump2Baby. Carla has a huge passion for linking together small businesses and growing families. Carla’s humorous, non-filtered honesty has won the hearts of thousands of parents throughout the UK.
She has previously written for the Metro and made appearances on BBC News, BBC 5 live, LBC etc. Carla is a finalist for Blogger of the Year award with Simply Ladies inc. Carla is also the host of the popular Fifty Shades of Motherhood podcast and The MyBump2Baby Expert podcast.