This week's debate: What was your experience of under-pressure maternity care?

Polly Mosley gave birth to daugter Alexa by a planned caesarean section.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 2:06 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:53 am
Polly Mosley

I gave birth in December 2015 at a time when The Jessop wing was experiencing a baby boom. I was labelled a ‘geriatric mother’ because I was over the age of 40. My care was apparently consultant-led but we didn’t see a consultant at all during my pregnancy – it didn’t matter though, as things were straightforward and I knew they were keeping an eye on me and my baby at regular growth scans.

After a lengthy battle to conceive I was beyond nervous by the time my baby was due. I have to say the care I received at the Jessop Wingwas excellent. The doctors, anaesthetist, theatre staff and midwives were professional, kind and caring – but extremely busy. It was a bit like a production line. We arrived at the hospital at noon and I was fourth on the list of planned C-sections that day.

By 3pm I was gowned up and walked down to theatre ready for delivery. Throughout the process the anaesthetist talked us through what was going on as my husband sat by my side awaiting the arrival of our longed-for baby. The process was quick and uncomplicated and our baby girl arrived safely about 15 minutes later. We were absolutely over the moon and maybe it was the morphine but I was in a haze of happiness as I lay in recovery cuddling my daughter for the first time.

Back on the ward I tried to establish breast-feeding. As most new mums will tell you, it’s incredibly difficult. Neither of you know what you are doing and as a mum you are desperate to nourish your child. Unfortunately there was little support. The midwives were literally run off their feet. We were discharged after two nights and I continued to struggle at home. My baby lost over 14 per cent of her birth weight in the first week. It’s not unusal for babies to lose some weight butwe only just avoided being readmitted to hospital by being put on a feeding plan – in essence I was told to feed her every three hours.

What annoyed me was that when I spoke to the other mums in my NCT group almost all seven of them had had the same issue and some had to be readmitted. If we’d only been told in hospital to feed our babies every three hours it would have saved a great deal of tears, stress and worry.

Being a survivor is now a badge of honour’ Liz Dew, founder, Sheffield Hypnobirthing

A woman getting ready to give birth.

You don’t have to talk about birth for long before someone mentions the ‘unrealistic expectations’ that some pregnant women, often first-timers, are guilty of. What exactly are these unrealistic expectations? Well, some people get offended by women who have a birth plan.

For others it is women who seek to control their birth environment in some way, whether that be with low lighting or relaxing music (often disparagingly referred to as ‘whale music’) or for conversation to be kept to a minimum. Sometimes it’s a desire to give birth at home.

All of these things can be seen as the whims of a woman who seeks to put her experience of birth above all other considerations, including the safety of her baby.

Only, that’s not the case. These women know that in order for the physiological process of birth to work effectively, they need to feel safe and private. The hormones involved in making the uterus contract are shy, they need a friendly environment with familiar people in order to be released in sufficient quantities. What’s so unrealistic about wanting to give birth in dignity, in a pleasant environment with people who fully support you and listen to you?

Is it unrealistic to expect and plan for a positive experience of birth? It seems obvious to me that safe births and positive experiences go hand in hand. Yet women are ridiculed for wanting to have a good experience of giving birth. The idea of an enjoyable birth is met with much scepticism, and yet it is more common than you might think. Women who enjoy giving birth don’t talk about it because it’s really difficult to talk about it without being considered a bit of a nutter in a world that has decided being a survivor of giving birth is a necessary badge of honour.

Treatment on ward was of poor standard’Sam Jackson, Sheffield mother-of-one

Everything had gone as planned in my pregnancy – my baby was doing well and I was expected to have a ‘normal’ birth.

A day after my due date I had some bleeding and after going for a check at the Jessop Wing, midwives decided to keep me in.

I was shown to my bed, given some painkillers and then they left me.

I had never been admitted to hospital before. I was terrified.

My contractions worsened throught the night, but I didn’t know I could call for more pain relief.

I was taken to the labour ward around 3pm the next day.

I wanted a water birth so spent several hours in the pool having gas and air, but my TENS machine provided better relief so was moved to a bed where I gave birth at 10.52pm.

I should have stayed on cloud nine from then on, but the midwife was struggling to deliver my placenta.

A consultant then stepped in.

My placenta came out, but as it did I lostmore than 11.5 litres of blood and doctors struggled to stop the bleeding for several minutes.

I spent two days on a high-dependency ward.

I underwent two blood transfusions and had round-the-clock care before being transferred to a ‘normal’ ward.

The treatment there was pretty poor.

The food was of minuscule portions – not enough to make a poorly mum stronger again – and I never saw the same midwife twice.

I struggled with breastfeeding because, as I later discovered, my blood loss meant I wasn’t producing milk.

However, rather than having things explained to me, I was told to give my newborn son formula milk on two occasions, which I didn’t want to.

After four days in hospital my levels improved enough to be discharged, and although still very poorly I was able to begin life at home with my son.

‘I felt I could make my own decisions’ Katlin Barnes, gave birth to baby alistair by caesarean section

On the Tuesday I started to get some surges every 20 minutes. We’d had a few false labours, so I just watched some telly and relaxed. At 11pm, I headed up to bed, joking with my husband Andy of the chances that our son would come on his due date. At 3.30am my waters broke, and at 5am we headed to the hospital. By 8.30, I was 4cm dilated and waiting for my heart rate to come down to get into the pool for pain relief. I had some gas and air, got into the pool, and chatted happily with the midwife and my husband between contractions.

At 1.30, after the intensity of my contractions changed, I was checked again and was found to be 6-7 cms. Within 30 minutes, I was leaning over the bed, feeling the need to push. I tried pushing in all sorts of positions, over the bed, over the ball, on the stool, on all fours. For two hours. I was definitely not calm at this point and had a few choice words for my husband. As I began to flag, the midwife gave me a quick check and it turns out baby Alistair hadn’t dropped. The consultant came in and offered us an assisted delivery, though given how high up he was, they did not seem overly positive. I was so tired at that point, and nearly in tears. I just wanted him out and I felt I could not push any more. My husband asked them to give us a few moments to discuss our options. Given how tired I was and how high up he was, I knew the best decision was to get him out, so we went with a C-section.

It was not what I wanted before I went into labour, but I when I heard him cry for the first time, I knew we’d done it right. He was out and safe. He is definitely not a little boy (over 4kg) and had a full head of hair.

The midwife was so complementary on how I’d done the whole labour with just gas and air and remained calm (until the very end). I felt that I was able to make decisions that allowed me to feel happy and at peace with the end result. And my husband was amazing, using the techniques he learned to calm me down and give us a break when the situation got intense.

A woman getting ready to give birth.