Has anyone been refused an epidural?

(85 Posts)
bedtimeyet Wed 06-Feb-13 12:53:07

I am 38 weeks and hoping to get an epidural this time, so just want to know if most people that want one get one, and how many are told "its too early" or "its too late". Or are persuaded not to have one.

Rooneyisalwaysmoaning Wed 06-Feb-13 13:25:51

Well I did have one with ds1, labour took about 8 hours, I think the epidural slowed it right down.

it was too late with ds2 - I asked to be transferred (home birth) when I was about to hit transition, and he was born half an hour later. MW looked at me and said there's two answers to that, darlin'. Bob hope, and no hope. (she was Irish)

Third time I asked for one on arrival at the hospital, I was around 6-7cm dilated and was told, the baby is coming, very soon - I insisted, as I wasn't coping, and I had to say it about 10 times before she actually went to get someone. She just kept putting it off, just having to fill in this form, or do such and such first - I think she hoped I'd do without tbh. No idea why - I felt quite cross about that...I didn't get a medal for going without last time, and I knew how much it was going to hurt.

Anyway I did get it in the end, but only about 20-30 minutes before he was born. So it was starting to kick in but it still hurt.

I'd speak to your MWs beforehand and ask when is the best time to ask for one - and how to ensure you do get it. I really thought she was going to put it off till it was too late, with ds3.

AnAirOfHope Wed 06-Feb-13 13:34:37

I had it with my first and it slow it down and they stoped it for the pushing bit as they said I needed to feel when to push.

The second time I asked but was 7cm and they said it was to late an hour later the baby was born. The same nurse also told me to stop useing yhe gas and air as it was making me high - that the point right?

Congrats on baby and god luck xx

AnAirOfHope Wed 06-Feb-13 13:35:23

Good luck

( gerr autocorrect)

Ushy Wed 06-Feb-13 17:53:26

I tried to get an epidural for number one and didn't. I had one for a subsequent birth but we virtually had to have a shouting match to get one. It was awful - surrounding by natural birth midwives cooing "but you can do it - you'll be so proud".

I pointed out that I do not see why I should feel proud of suffering horrific pain when medical science has moved on to the point where it can be prevented. I got a long list of the 'dangers' of epidurals (note 'dangers' not risks) but I had done my homework and knew what the risks were in advance. Also having been through a previous birth, I knew what the disadvantages of NOT having one was.

I pointed out to the gang of 'sisters' that if there was less cooing about 'how we can do it" there would have been more research into epidurals to reduce the very few risks there are. angry

Well, backed up by DH who is normally laid back and jokey but who got so angry I thought he was going to hit the midwife, grin, I did get the epi. I should point out this was nothing to do with the anaesthetist being busy because I actually asked him. Anyway, it was a perfect and calm birth - spoilt only by the natural birth zealotry of the midwives and their obsession with ticking their 'normal birth' targets.

I have to say though I have had friends at the same hospital who have just requested an epi and got one. I think it all comes down to who is on duty but I would go in expecting they will be professional and respect your wishes but have a joint plan with DP or DH to turn heavy if they start refusing. Also recommend you ask early and insist they record the time of the request in your notes.

Good luck

Locketjuice Wed 06-Feb-13 17:57:57

I kept getting told no I can do it doing so well etc then it all went tits up had the head midwife in to check me along with around 10 people rushing in and they said have an epidural as I can see this heading for a csection otherwise so eventually had my epidural... Was pure relief but only worked down one sidehmm and had him half an hour later...smile

jumpinghoops Wed 06-Feb-13 18:02:20

I was told it was too early- and then that it was too late. Lots of faffing around and not really responding to the request at all until the 5th time I asked, at which point was told I couldn't be examined yet as it wasn't the right time. When I insisted I was too far along to have one.

I'm aiming for a home birth this time as I think if I'm not going to have one I might as well stay at home!

23balloons Wed 06-Feb-13 18:08:36

I managed to get one twice but had to repeatedly insist. First time dc born about 1.5 hrs later, second time got it at 8cm & born 40 mins later. I could feel to push &am very glad I got my epidurals smile

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 06-Feb-13 18:08:51

I was being propped for one when they realised I was 10cm and it was pushing time - DD was born less than 30mins later, so they were totally spot on in deciding not to give it to me.

As far as pain levels were concerned I found gas and air to be enough in the end, so I don't regret not having one.

Hope that helps a bit.

Rooneyisalwaysmoaning Wed 06-Feb-13 18:18:17

why are they so reluctant? I don't get it. is it because they're afraid it'll cause more intervention and problems with the birth?

Or are epidurals really expensive or something?

HelenofSparta Wed 06-Feb-13 18:59:33

Cost :-(
I have had one twice, but first following an induction/knocking myself out with the gas and scaring the midwife! Second I had to repeatedly ask. Have it in birth plan and insist ask as soon as you arrive at hospital. That was DH's job - to keep bugging them for it as they were trying to fob me off.
Fingers crossed for DD3 next month.....!

jasmine31 Wed 06-Feb-13 19:03:41

I was refused an epidural due to hospital staffing issues. To be fair, I started out in the midwife-led section as I was hoping for a waterbirth. This was on the understanding that I could be transferred within the hospital for an epidural/other intervention if needed. I asked for an epidural after 12hrs of labour when I was only 4cm dilated and struggling. At this stage the anaethetist was busy. Then a couple of hours later, the anaethetist was free, but there was no midwife available to accompany me to the correct room for the epidural to be done (it seemed to be at the time of a shift changeover and my midwife, who was a locum went home, saying that another midwife would be along shortly). The second midwife when she eventually arrived was really apologetic that I couldn't have an epidural but said there was nothing she could do. 4 hours after I originally wanted the epidural, finally there were enough staff available, but by this point I was almost fully dilated and ready to push so I declined the epidural and went with the original plan of waterbirth. With hindsight I should probably have accepted the epidural even though it was at such a late stage as I tore quite badly due to being completely exhausted/panicked and the midwife having to quite forcibly help my baby's body out underwater. Having the tears sutured was more painful than the whole pushing stage. Next time I definitely want an epidural!

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 06-Feb-13 19:05:27

There is an effect called the cascade of intervention as well. The more intervention there is in your birth (including epidurals) the more likely the birth is to end in a c-section. Which is why lots of people believe you are best sticking to the most basic kind of pain relief you can manage.

Obviously they are great for lots of other reasons though, and if you really want one keep asking.

StrawberryMojito Wed 06-Feb-13 19:05:44

The hospital were more than happy for me to have one, but the anaesthetist was dealing with women about to have csections so I was nearly 10cm and nearly climbing the Walls with the pain by the time I got it.

LynetteScavo Wed 06-Feb-13 19:06:46

Yes, because I couldn't keep still for long enough, apparently. My yelling "Look, I'm still now, aren't I!" between contractions didn't do much to persuade the anesthetist.

LadyKinbote Wed 06-Feb-13 19:12:27

I was refused pain relief with DS (including gas & air sad ). They later claimed it was because they thought DS was my first (he's not) and that they expected a long labour (they didn't re-examine me to check). I suspect it's to do with under-staffing and under-investment.

Ushy Wed 06-Feb-13 19:45:47

Tewi "here is an effect called the cascade of intervention as well. The more intervention there is in your birth (including epidurals) the more likely the birth is to end in a c-section. "

That's something the natural birth fraternity say, Tewi , but its not true as far as caesareans go. NICE say women have to be told that epidurals DO NOT increase the caesarean rate but I don't think that happens. OK there is a small increase in low instrumentals (i in 20) but there is debate as to whether this is to due with the epidural or just that women in more pain have more complications anyway. You are no more likely to tear with an epidural because although you might possibly have increased instrumental, you are less likely to suffer a severe tear through uncontrollable pushing. As far lengthening labour by 15 minutes, well who cares if you are not in pain?

So basically, it is down to choice. The cascade of intervention is a myth.

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 06-Feb-13 19:50:39

Fair enough. That's how the MW explained it to me when I asked with DC2.

rootypig Wed 06-Feb-13 20:10:24

At a London hospital 3 months ago I was given an epidural no problem. But I had the advantage of having a friend who had given birth on the same ward a month previously, and warned if I thought I wanted the epidural to ask for it when I arrived, as it took them more than an hour and a half to find an anaesthetist for her. I was 4cm dilated and having a fast labour when I arrived, and not coping at all, so asked for it right away (suspect was quite insistent) and had it forty minutes later. I had a lovely Spanish trainee midwife who said 'of course you want the epidural' when she saw how I was struggling, so I felt no judgment at all (as others have reported). then spent 5 very relaxed hours sitting about chatting in bed and eating jelly babies before letting it wear off for what ended up being two hours of pushing confused, but we won't talk about that

MyDarlingClementine Wed 06-Feb-13 20:28:10

I wasnt refused but I was certainly gently steered away from one and then it was too late when I was screaming wanting one....

Unfortunaltly the best you can do is get it written into your notes.

Even then though, my experience after being under " consulant care" was the Head MW who was supposed to be discussing me trying labour BUT with an Epidural, i.e no messing round with one, only went to tell me that as I was a great candidate for an quicker better birth second time, I should really only go with the birth pool.

She then directly contradicted the consultant who thought an epidural wouldnt slow down my labour.
Knowing I was there to talk about options other than an ELC I thought her attitude was alarming to say the least. She firmly made me make up my mind to an ELC because I couldnt trust her at all.

PickledInAPearTree Wed 06-Feb-13 20:34:14

I saw a consultant the other day who told me its rubbish you can't have one late.

I had one at 8/9 cm first time.

They gave me a spinal first to stop me leaping about. Was amazing.

MyDarlingClementine Wed 06-Feb-13 21:57:57

My consulant said an epidural wont neccasarily slow labour down.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 06-Feb-13 22:06:26

Epidurals might not increase the risk of a lscs but continuous monitoring does. And most hospitals will insist on continuous monitoring if you have an epidural. So indirectly it does increase your chance of having a lscs.

Saying that I do very much believe that all women should be able to have one if they want one. They shouldn't be put off, etc.

DottyDot Wed 06-Feb-13 22:15:14

I had to scream, shout and swear the ward down to get one... I wasn't dilating (didn't ever get to even 2cm in my 28+ hours of labour) but my contractions and the pain I was feeling was horrendous. I'd been induced but it hadn't worked - sent me into shock(I passed out and was rushed up to delivery suite I think for a section but then came round) and then had horrendous contractions for hours but no dilation. Gas and air didn't seem to have any effect and I wasn't offered pethadine - would have tried it if I had!

Eventually the midwives got fed up of me shouting the place down and the consultant came round and said yes, let her have one...

Another gazillion hours later, we all gave up and I had a c-section as ds's heartrate was dipping so badly - cord wrapped round his neck.

All in all a bit of a labour failure but life was sooooo much better once I had the epidural - I was able to apologise to all the midwives for my shocking language for a start... blush

GrandPoohBah Wed 06-Feb-13 22:15:39

I was offered one as soon as I was transferred to the delivery suite, I don't know if that's because I was induced and they didn't know if I'd need the drip (I didn't, as it happens), or just because the anaesthetist was about at that time.

I had to have continuous monitoring anyway (induced because of preeclampsia) so it really helped me with the fact that I had to stay still and strapped up. It was timed really well as it had pretty much worn off when it came to pushing so I could work with my contractions. I ended up with a 2nd degree tear but that was more because DD came out in a bit of a rush than anything else!

Ushy Wed 06-Feb-13 22:20:07

Dotty that is absolutely shocking. sad Did you complain?

DottyDot Wed 06-Feb-13 23:04:57

No... I'd quite like to see my notes sometime though as no-one explained what had happened to me re: my reaction to being induced - I think it must have been some kind of allergic reaction but I don't know. I also don't know what time ds was born as they didn't tell me - just about got them to let me know he was a boy as they whisked him away...

This is all nearly 9 years ago now but still feels weird when I start to think about it!

bluemintygel Wed 06-Feb-13 23:19:04

My midwife strongly recommended I have one, I didn't even ask!

Rooneyisalwaysmoaning Thu 07-Feb-13 07:03:35

'OK there is a small increase in low instrumentals (i in 20) but there is debate as to whether this is to due with the epidural or just that women in more pain have more complications anyway. You are no more likely to tear with an epidural because although you might possibly have increased instrumental, you are less likely to suffer a severe tear through uncontrollable pushing. As far lengthening labour by 15 minutes, well who cares if you are not in pain?

So basically, it is down to choice. The cascade of intervention is a myth. '

I'm not convinced it's a myth. I've had three labours; two with epidural, one without.
I dn't know the figures in regard to CS as a result of epidural, but in general terms, the more you have done to you, the more you consequently have done in addition.

So, take first labour - I didn't understand the levels of pain that were possible, I mean across the spectrum, and requested an epidural about halfway through - maybe 4/5 hours into it. What I didn't know was that I'd then be strapped on my back, unable to walk around and monitored. I also didn't know it would slow things down, orthat I'd not be able to feel when I was pushing or make any attempt to try harder, thus leading to the ventouse being wielded, though it wasn' ued in the end as my mum told them not to.

And I didn't know I'd not be able to feel my legs for another 24 hours, or stand up to reach my baby when he cried, or have uncontrollable sickness as a reaction to it - leading to my bby giving up, going back to sleep and the MWs, when they did finally come (no one responded to the buzzer) telling me if he didn't feed within a couple of hours he'd be given a bottle. (he had already breastfed at birth). And the mere fact of being in hospital meaning I wasn't allowed him in my bed to encourage this - I ignored them and did it anyway, and he fed.

This is what I consider a cascade of intervention. Albeit a mild one.

Also when you say 'uncontrollable pushing' I think that's exactly what happens, normaly - I certainly was unaware I was pushing ds1 out, I couldn't feel a thing. Ds2 was unmedicated home birth and I felt my body pushing but could no way stop it. Ds3 I was able to push more but not less. It just happens.

Ushy Thu 07-Feb-13 14:30:53

Rooney The problem in UK as Viva said, is that you are sometimes strapped to a monitor if you have an epidural. NICE doesn't say that is necessary except for just the first 20 minutes to check while they install the epidural and top up.

So it is the way the NHS does epidurals that is the problem not the epidurals themselves. It annoys me because medical advances enable good standards of pain relief but no-one seems to be bothered to do it here - definitely mysogyny because I can't believe men would be treated this way.

I felt the anti pain relief attitudes that I encountered were actually abusive; It is almost as though a minority of staff do everything they can to cause problems for women with epis just so they can say 'told you so' when problems arise.

I totally agree that lying flat on your back is exactly what will cause problems but it isn't the epidural doing that - it is the staff who insist on it. In some countries where they have incredibly high epidural rates, they have lower instrumental delivery rates than we do. Also there has been a massive amount of research into epidurals and caesareans and epidurals do not cause c/s.

I've had an epi - a light one - and actually was able to give birth upright. You clearly were given a really heavy dose if your legs were 'dead' after only 4 or 5 hours. Why did they do that? It wasn't necessary.

As for the attitude of the midwives to you over BFing..that was shocking and just plain wrong. Sorry you got such rotten treatment.

I just think childbirth would be a whole lot better if we put up with a lot less.

So I am going to keep my fingers crossed for the OP that she gets her epidural and they do it properly. smile

I had one with DS1 no problem. I asked once and was given one. Obviously I was far enough along (4cm) but they put up no fight at all. It was marvellous until they let it wear off at the same time as they gave me something to speed up the contractions. As I got no gap at all in the contractions, they did give me a top up eventually but it wasn't pleasant for a while. I had to have forceps to deliver DS1 though.

With DS2 I was due to give birth in a different hospital and asked on the hospital tour about epidurals as I wanted one despite it slowing things up. Apparently they tried to avoid giving them. Looking at the statistics afterwards their CS rates were well above average and their epidural rates well below. That suggests to me that they were doing epidurals with a view to cutting you open, not using them for pain relief. Thankfully, DS2 arrived at home and I didn't have to go to that hospital as it wasn't a nice place imo and I am glad I never had to test their policy on epidurals when it came down to it.

Ushy Thu 07-Feb-13 14:45:30

Bigboobied "It was marvellous until they let it wear off at the same time as they gave me something to speed up the contractions"

That's what I mean. Isn't that just sadistic? Why on earth did they do that? That isn't supposed to happen - they are supposed to keep it in place right up until the placenta is completely delivered.

Glad you had a better experience with DS2.

I'd been pushing for over 3 hours by then. I think the contractions weren't coming fast enough so fine to speed them up but it was unfortunate they decided not to top up the epi when that ran out too and that the contractions got out of hand.

Despite having had a MW all day, it was at that point they all made themselves scarce going to get a doctor and whatnot and I was left with a constant contraction (which I thought I might have imagined except I met somebody else who had the same recently) and nobody to administer any more epidural. They did try to tell me to just go with it but I don't think they realised I was getting no respite at all from the contraction and it was at that point I refused to actively push so they topped me up. blush

I was being a bit bolshy I suppose but actually I couldn't catch a breath to push with by then. It was an 'interesting' half hour to say the least.

When I met her for the first time, the HV said I had had a tough time and I didn't know why she thought that. I had avoided a CS after all. I assumed that labour was going to be painful and hard work and it was! With hindsight though, it was all a bit of a shambles at the end. I don't know if I would call it sadistic as such - they weren't deliberately trying to harm me - they just wanted the baby out as by then I'd been pushing for so long - 4 hours in total by the time DS was born. Mismanaged would probably be more appropriate although I do think they might have forgotten about what the drugs were doing to me when they were panicking about DS1.

DS2 depsite no pain relief and a surprise appearance was a walk in the park and I was on a high for weeks afterwards. smile

Ushy Thu 07-Feb-13 15:39:58

I think you were very brave to have DS2 after that - glad it all worked out well though. smile

galwaygirl Thu 07-Feb-13 15:54:28

Just on the epidural slowing things down - I had the opposite experience and dilated way faster after I got one. Personally I think it's because I could finally relax after being denied much needed pain relief for the previous 6 hours.

RugBugs Thu 07-Feb-13 16:07:32

I was told there 'would be no chance of an epidural today as we're too busy' as soon as I was wheeled down from ante-natal ward.
To be fair they were, I was meant to be on the consultant led part with monitoring but there wasn't room so I was on the midwife led bit.

Rooneyisalwaysmoaning Thu 07-Feb-13 16:09:50

Ushy, thankyou so much for your kind reply. Yes it was a very heavy dose with ds1 - luckily with ds2 it was very light and I could still feel my legs enough to stand up, etc. Mind you ds1 was born nearly 10 years ago so maybe things have changed.

MrsMcEnroe Thu 07-Feb-13 16:19:25

I was refused an epidural as the delivery suite was too busy and there was no anaesthetist free to administer it - it was all over the local paper the next day, labouring women were being sent 50 miles away to go birth as the local hospital was so busy ...

bedtimeyet Thu 07-Feb-13 19:39:30

Most of your experiences sound shocking, it just seems like the pain of women in labour isn't given much consideration or sympathy when it's the most painful thing to go through, and letting it wear off for the most painful part just sounds cruel.
I'll be asking for an epidural then as soon as I walk in, I wouldn't want to risk seeing if I can manage without and then being told I can't have one if it gets too much.

I'll let you know if I get one or not in a couple of weeks.

LadyKinbote Thu 07-Feb-13 20:32:45

Feeling bad now for not being more reassuring! Just go in determined and I'm sure you'll be fine smile

Loislane78 Fri 08-Feb-13 06:50:07

I asked and got one. Some reluctance (for other medical reasons for me) and also the MW thought I was coping well. Turned out DD was bad position so insisting on epidural at 10 cm was the right thing do MW told me during 2 hours of pushing!

You need your birth partner to advocate for you. I had my 'I need an epidural' face on so DP started chipping in as well.

Locketjuice Fri 08-Feb-13 07:53:47


Loislane78 Fri 08-Feb-13 11:02:53

And just to add I was lucky that i didn't have any forceps/ventouse after the epi due to amazeballs MW who was insistent with the right positioning I could push DD out and again, luckily DDs heartrate was fine so ii was allowed to carry on or else it would have resulted in nasty intervention.

So therefore (for me at leastsmile
- requested epidural at 10cm and got one
- baby in poor position but delivered with no intervention

= you just can't tell

Perriwinkle Fri 08-Feb-13 17:01:28

I was refused an epidural due to staff shortages. I was mortified because I'd clearly stated on my so-called "birth plan" (what a joke that was!) that it was the only sort of pain relief I wanted.

Anyway, I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn't have one until the woman who already had one in place in the room along the corridor had delivered her baby because there was simply not enough staff to monitor me.

I was, therefore, left in agonies of pain and scared to death with no other alternative option for pain relief that I was comfortable with. Thankfully, soon after being told this they decided to send me for a c-section as my baby's heartrate was dipping badly and they had to get him out in a hurry.

That news was sweet music to my ears and certainly more than made up for being refused an epidural.

I'd have preferred an elective c-section all along but an emergency one with a spinal was still preferable to a vaginal birth with an epidural.

Afterwards, when on the post natal ward, midwives urged me to write a letter of complaint about the whole sorry episode to highlight staff shortages and the conditions they're expected to work under. I did this but not sure it made a difference. This was almost 13 years ago now and I gather it's still a common occurance for women to be refused on these grounds at the same hospital.

Ushy Fri 08-Feb-13 18:40:06

So sorry to hear about such awful treatment. sad

Where did this happen?

Chunderella Sat 09-Feb-13 12:17:05

That's very interesting Pickled. I was denied one as I was 9cm by the time an anaesthetist got to me, three hours after I had initially asked for an epidural. Soon after, at 10cm, I had to have syntocin as contractions stalled. DD was also back to back so this was loads of shits and giggles. Ended up with ventouse. I'm working up to making a complaint about having been left so long, because I went through an astonishing amount of pain due with no effective pain relief. Gas and air did sod all and the pudendal block was only right at the end.

And yes, the 'cascade of interventions' is far from universally accepted. The plural of anecdote is not data, but while we're on the subject, frankly I wonder if my own birth would've resulted in fewer interventions if I'd been able to have some proper pain relief.

sky44 Sat 09-Feb-13 18:36:48

Chunderella - if you do complain then it would be interesting to find out what their reason was for refusing an epidural at 9cm, especially if it was your first baby, as there was potentially still at least an hour or two left - the time to get to 10cm and the pushing stage.

Loislane78 Sat 09-Feb-13 20:17:37

chunderella defo complain cos as I said in my post I got one at 10cm. My labour also slowed and I went on the drip so I can only imagine what you went through as I still felt 'pain'.

Chunderella Sat 09-Feb-13 22:24:54

Thanks ladies. Yes I am complaining, I wrote the letter today after reading this in fact. I had been thinking I'd only complain about the delay rather than the clinical decision itself, but might just ask for an explanation. If there were good medical reasons, fair enough. After all DD and I both got through it all in one piece. I'm grateful for that!

Lois it was extremely painful but honestly the worst part was being left for so long beforehand. At least during the delivery itself, things were happening and I knew there was the ventouse option if needed. By the way, any first timers reading this, please don't be scared by it. Yes it was bad, but I'm a massive wuss, definitely lower pain threshold than average, and I got through it. You do it because you have to and if it happens to you, you'll come out the other side. You just shouldn't have to if you don't want to!

Perriwinkle Sun 10-Feb-13 20:05:08

When I wrote a letter of complaint, I complained not only about the fact that I'd been refused an epidural but the fact that I'd been left to labour between 4.30pm and 10.00pm on the post natal ward if you please, where people were there visiting new mothers! This was apparently due to the lack of rooms on the labour ward. This I considered to be intolerable because my dignity was simply not properly respected. A thin curtain that kept flapping open was all that I had to maintain my dignity from onlookers, goodness knows what they must have thought about the noises I was making!!

I've just looked out the letter that I recieved in response from the Director of Midwifery and and all it says about my being left to labour on the post natal ward is "I very much regret that you felt so uncomfortable during this time on the ward prior to returning to the labour ward".

All that was said regarding the refusal of the epidural was that the midwife looking after me was aware of my request for epidural pain relief but the labour ward was very busy and another woman needed an epidural first because of complications in her labour. Then it goes on to say "the demand for epidural analgesia has grown dramatically over the past year and the midwife in charge of the labour ward has the difficult task of balancing the needs of all the women in labour whilst maintaining a safe service"." It also goes on about the need for staff from the labour ward to be available to staff the obstetric theatre at all times in cases of emergency. Finally, she says that she ^"very much regrets that I was unable to have an epidural when I requested it" but assures me that she ^"will be closely monitoring demand for this form of pain relief as well as the workload on the unit in order to demonstrate the need for further increases in funding".

She thanked me for my feedback added a few more platitudes and that was that!

So all in all, I'd say it's really not worth complaining but it might help you to feel that you got a few things off your chest. My baby was born in 2000 and thinking about the way things went that day and the way I was looked after still makes me both sad and cross, as does reading that letter from the Director of Midwifery!

Chunderella Mon 11-Feb-13 20:46:33

That sounds pretty grim. Did you take it further?

Part of the reason I want to complain is to perhaps get a reputation as a trouble maker so I won't be left next time! In my own case I do think it was because of understaffing, but I have a friend who's an anaesthetist in another hospital and she reckons one of the midwives involved was trying to 'spare' me the epidural, so who knows?

Perriwinkle Tue 12-Feb-13 13:22:28

As I said Chunderella, personally I think that writing a letter of complaint is purely a cathartic exercise for people like us who feel aggrieved.

I didn't take my particular complaints any further although the response from the Director of Midwifery I received didn't make me feel any better about my whole sorry experience on what was probably the most momentous day of my life.

The main thing was both my DS and I were fine at the end of it all and on that basis, I doubt they even consider that I've got justifiable grounds to complain in the first place!

Today, when I watch programmes like "One Born Every Minute" and see the midwives giving the women in labour care and attention and showing them humility and respect it makes me realise just how far removed it was from the care I received that day. I do wonder if having the cameras around makes a difference though... hmm

Chunderella Tue 12-Feb-13 20:37:58

Yeah there is a certain mentality of 'you got a healthy baby so what do you have to complain about' isn't there? I think that can be something that's used to diminish women's complaints regardless of what type they are: I should think it comes up as often for the women who are angry they weren't able to do things as naturally as they wanted as for those of us who were left to our own devices when we absolutely didn't want to be. That's not to say I'm not deeply and profoundly grateful for modern obstetric care and the NHS, I absolutely am and would defend the NHS with my last breath.

MiaowTheCat Wed 13-Feb-13 09:23:25

I didn't even get paracetamol or gas and air - by the time they'd ignored my pain relief requests for 3 1/2 hours I was fully dilated and almost ready to push! They did, however, offer me aromatherapy - poor very chirpy, sweet-natured midwife making the offer got somewhat short shrift about where I'd like to insert the ylang-ylang and jojoba at that point (disclaimer: I have no idea what actual oils they were proposing - those two just picked for comedic effect)!

As for complaining - I have a horrifically long story of how hideously I was treated - but I've never done the complaint as I think the pat "we're sorry you feel that way" denials they did anything wrong would be the final slap in the face and send me utterly into a tailspin again. Indeed me asking for pain relief marked me down as a "troublesome patient" in the words of one staff member on the ward - I don't dare get that on my file since I'm due with number 2 soon.

I was most pissed off at not being allowed loose on the gas and air - I'd been looking forward to that part!

This would be why I'm now utterly terrified of going through it all again with number 2 in a far-too-small-number-of-weeks-time.

Chunderella Wed 13-Feb-13 10:47:22

Gas and air was pretty shit in my experience, you missed nothing. I'm really sorry to hear what happened to you though, Miaow. Are you givnig birth at the same place?

MiaowTheCat Wed 13-Feb-13 12:09:45

Same NHS trust (unfortunately) - different hospital, although all bets are off as to where I actually get to go since the maternity units regularly have to close their doors because of being full here... week after I was in they were sending women to the next city down the motorway (about 1 hrs drive), and recently I've heard tales of them sending them even further to one of the hospitals in the news for all the horror stories! If they try sending me there I'm tying my ankles together, shoving a cork in it and telling hubby to just put foot to the floor and drive me up north to near my parents' house!

Ushy Wed 13-Feb-13 13:09:07

I think some of these accounts are soooooo shocking.

The Care Quality Commission has a link where you can complain and they will look at the complaints when they inspect. Apparently it is very effective.


You have to search for the hospital and there is a top tab where you can give your feedback. Unlike hospital complaints, it will be external and direct to the inspecting body.

I don't think things get any better if you put up and shut up so I am definitely going to do a complaint of my own.

Ushy Wed 13-Feb-13 13:10:44

Forgot to say, you have to click on the hospital link - it is the second page which has the feedback tab.

Perriwinkle Wed 13-Feb-13 13:12:32

I'd second the view that gas an air is rubbish. Although I'd clearly stated on my joke of a birth plan that I didn't want to use it, when I was refused the epidural they did offer me it as an alternative and strongly urged me to at least give it a try. Out of sheer desperation I did try it and as far as I'm concerned I might as well have been sucking on thin air for all the relief it offered. Even the midwide said, "I don't think that's going to be any good for you".

I would like to think that I would certainly have drawn the line at diamorphine/pethadine or whatever it is they call it. The mere thought of having that filled me with equal measures of horror and dread!

Thank god they whisked me off for a c-section before things got any worse!!

Chunderella Wed 13-Feb-13 18:02:39

Diamorphine is fucking lovely Perri! I'm just sorry I'd had so much of it during my stalled first stage, so couldn't have any during the action itself.

Thanks for the link Ushy. I submitted my complaint today and will certainly use that if the response isn't satisfactory. My friend is a consultant anaesthetist at a different hospital and has strongly encouraged me to complain, she obviously feels as you do about put up and shut up.

Sounds like a plan Miaow. Hopefully things will be easier for you this time, it's not uncommon for women who had difficult first births to have much quicker and easier labours subsequently.

2wwmadness Wed 13-Feb-13 18:14:36

No I didn't get one. There wasn't enough staff as someone else was havin an emergency csec. All the shouting for one in the world wasn't gunna get me one. But it want that bad without in hiensight. I worked myself up way more about the birth than it was. DS is 9months

MammaCici Thu 14-Feb-13 09:32:19

I gave birth in Sweden and I had "a walking epidural". It is just enough painkiller to take the edge off the contractions. I was still able to walk about just up until baby popped out. I had picked a birth centre that prefer natural birth so it took a while to convince them I wanted it. I still felt all the contractions but they were more manageable. I still felt the baby move down. Staying mobile meant that labour didn't slow down. I'm expecting #2 now and plan to have a similar form of pain relief. The birth was still very tough but once I got the epi it felt more manageable and I was calmer and able to concentrate on the job at hand. My baby was over 9lbs and I had very little tearing. I was able to use the bathroom within 30 mins of birth so I avoided a catheter.
I really thought I could do it without pain relief. I had read lots of books on hypnobirthing etc. and did meditations everyday in preparation. I thought I'd control it. During transition I realised that my mum was right. The pain is unlike anything you can imagine. Some women feel it more than others I guess. I felt it like it was an electric shock, my whole body reeled uncontrollably.
This time around I will go to a regular hospital because I don't want to fight for pain relief when the time comes.

Briseis Fri 15-Feb-13 13:49:35

I was refused one second time round as "too far gone" - this was a load of nonsense, really got the feel that they just thought second time mum, should all go ok, and labour was going fast so may as well not bother. Had an epidural with dd1 and enjoyed the birth. Took me a long time to get over my birth with dd2 as found it very frightening and painful - had no pain relief at all, not even gas and air. Still feel wronged by the hospital and midwife.

StrawberryGateaux Fri 15-Feb-13 13:53:05

I was refused with dc4, apparently i was too far gone (i was about 5cms)!
Ask for one really early on, have it written in your birth plan & state the need of wanting one as soon as you go in

Perriwinkle Fri 15-Feb-13 21:38:53

I did all that StrawberryGateaux and it counted for jack shit in the end. I had to manage with a couple of paracetamol and a crappy TENS machine before I was finally (and thankfully!!) whisked away for my emergency c-section at the end of my hideous 24 hour labour.

At the end of the day it's simple - if they haven't got the staff to monitor you while you've got an epidural in place they won't let you have one, even if there is an anaethetist available to put one in for you.

And if you complain about it, as I did, they'll simply trot out the line "the midwife in charge of the labour ward has the difficult task of balancing the needs of all the women in labour whilst maintaining a safe service."

CalamityJ Fri 15-Feb-13 21:47:25

I've heard many stories of my local hospital delaying epidurals till it's too late. I really don't want someone I don't know making such a big decision for me. Especially as neither of my midwives has given birth...

Perriwinkle Fri 15-Feb-13 22:30:05

CalamityJ those decisions will no doubt be put down to "the midwife in charge of the labour ward balancing the needs of all the women in labour whilst maintaining a safe service."

Unfortunately, when your time comes, if you are giving birth in an NHS hospital you like all the rest of us will be at the complete mercy of those on duty who will be looking after you. Realistically, they will make all the decisions and call all the shots.

Your choices and wishes will only be accommodated if it fits in with the resources they have available to them. If this results in things going not quite as you would have liked them to, well, in a word, tough. They think that as long as you deliver a healthy baby and are OK yourself then you have little to complain about in the grand scheme of things.

Unfortunately for us, what is ultimately the most momentous day in our lives is just another day in the office for the staff on the labour ward and we're just another widget.

If you're giving birth at the Portland Hospital or any other private facility where you are paying handsomely for the service you get however, it will of course, be a totally different story! grin

CalamityJ Fri 15-Feb-13 22:47:17

Periwinkle fair point about resources but if having a difficult/painful birth ends up with PTSD then isn't there a false economy in terms of future resources being used to 'fix' the problems caused by a traumatic birth? Plus the long term implications on the baby's emotional wellbeing.

FrustratedSycamoresRocks Fri 15-Feb-13 22:58:47

I was refused one 2nd time around. After being told it was too late. Although with hindsight I do think they were right, since dc was born about 15minutrs later, so I wouldn't have worked in time anyway. However at the time I wasn't aware of this.

Perriwinkle Fri 15-Feb-13 23:02:01

I totally agree CalamityJ but they don't deal in "what ifs". They just deal with what's in front of them with the resources they have. And to be fair, what else can they do?

The NHS is under resourced and that's just a sad fact.

recall Fri 15-Feb-13 23:04:26

I was told too late with my second, I was in fucking agony and very angry

It was too late because the anaesthetist was busy helping a lady with a retained placenta. I told them to show me where she was, and I'd get the fucking thing out for her ( very rude I know - apologised after blush )

I later met the woman at a Baby group, and she said that she was on the phone to her MIL announcing the birth of her baby, and her MIL asked what the hell that noise was, and it was me screaming apparently. Oh how we laugh now angry

Perriwinkle Fri 15-Feb-13 23:39:54

Great you can laugh about it now recall but your story demonstrates perfectly how the staff on a labour ward will (and must) make decisons and call the shots regarding your labour and delivery depending on what fits in with them rather than what fits in with you!!

recall Fri 15-Feb-13 23:53:27

To a certain extent yes Perriwinkle but it isn't all about the ward, and the Midwives, it is about the patients, and I think that sometimes the resources could be managed differently. I am well aware that there are second anaesthetists on call, and would have been called out if I had needed an emergency C section. I am a Nurse, and I was taught that pain is what the patient says it is....I think it was bad practice not to have given me adequate pain relief because it would have inconvenienced the staff.

recall Sat 16-Feb-13 00:00:39

mammacici i too had epidurals where I could feel all of the contractions and actively push - perfect pain control, I was in heaven and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of those those births.

Perriwinkle Sat 16-Feb-13 00:21:53

I agree recallbut I think that's just the crux of the problem - the lack of resources in the NHS leads directly to bad practice.

I'm sure no nurse or midwife sets out to deliberately cause anyone under their care pain, distress or discomfort but they are ultimately constrained by the scarce resources they are given to juggle.

I was refused an epidural due to lack of resources and I was upset and angry - and still am now almost 13 years later. However, when I think of it in terms of the bigger picture, as a reasonable and rational person, as cross as I was, I realise that it was due to circumstances beyond their control.

recall Sat 16-Feb-13 00:30:43

You see, I'm not so sure that it is always due to circumstances beyond their control. Maybe its because I have seen through the looking glass, and worked in these environments. Sometimes poor practice has nothing to do with lack of resources, and more to do with lack of empathy and compassion.

Perriwinkle Sat 16-Feb-13 00:35:29

Oh, and recall the issue about you being able to have an epidural if you'd needed an emergency c-section doesn't really affect this. The staffing of the obstetric theatre for emergencies takes priority over routine low risk births so of course you would have had one if that circumstance had arisen.

That's exactly what happened to me. All the while I was considered to be in early active labour with a baby who wasn't in distress they were perfectly comfortabale with refusing my request for an epidural, despite it being on my birth plan. Apparently there was not enough staff to monitor me, as other women further on in labour than me aalready had epidurals in place. I was not presenting a problem at that stage in terms of how my labour was progressing.

However, things changed very quickly and an hour or so later, when feotal decelerations were giving so much cause for concern that they couldn't even risk waiting for the results of a blood test to ascertain the baby's oxygen levels, I was whisked straight to theatre and given a spinal block and he was whipped out pronto.

Perriwinkle Sat 16-Feb-13 00:40:48

Well recall I have to take this at face value and believe, as I was told by the Director of Midwifery in her letter to me, that the reason I was refused an epidural was down to lack of resources. Pure and simple.

If I am forced to consider that it was due to lack of empathy and/or compassion I will feel more upset and angry about it than I do already. sad

recall Sat 16-Feb-13 01:30:22

Yes * periwinkle* I can understand that, you have my full empathy regarding this, it is very traumatic, and I can understand your point of view, I don't doubt that in your situation it was due to lack of resources. please don't get upset <<big hug>> I was just thinking about my own experiences, both as a patient and when I was a Nurse, I realise that they aren't necessarily relevant to your situation - sorry.

I just find it unbelievable that women who are rolling around in sheer agony are refused analgesia. I remember shaking like an animal that had been shot or something pleading for help, and people plodding about all normal. Very frightening.

CalamityJ Sat 16-Feb-13 09:37:33

recall I remember shaking like an animal that had been shot or something pleading for help, and people plodding about all normal

That's exactly how I was when my local anaesthetic operation didn't work & all I got was a hand to hold (bloody hard poor nurse!) And as many on this thread had their experiences years ago but can still remember, get upset & are angry I'm interested in knowing what I can do to learn from others experiences to ensure history has the minimum chance of being repeated (never saying never)

Chunderella Sat 16-Feb-13 11:49:41

Recall I suspect you may be right- it's not such a stretch to imagine there might be some midwives, especially those who are very pro NCB and feel there are serious downsides associated with epidurals, to not want their patients to have them. Not out of cruelty, but perhaps a feeling that they're 'saving' women from themselves. And it's true, there are upsides to not having an epidural. I was able to walk, wee, shower, move around and breast feed within six hours of giving birth with no problems, and although I'd still have chosen the epidural, I'm honest enough to admit that it was nice being able to move around easily when looking after my newborn.

But my friend who's an anaesthetist at a different hospital said my case sounded like the midwife looking after me was the one 'blockingg' it, if you like. I waited for three and a half hours but the anaesthetist, when I saw him, said he'd only been called a few minutes earlier. So it can't have been because he was with someone else. And I had a midwife with me throughout the time I was waiting because DD needed continuous foetal monitoring and, shockingly enough, I was finding it rather hard to keep still enough when going from 1 to 9cm in a back to back labour with contractions lasting 90 seconds at a time. So it doesn't sound like it was due to resources necessarily.

recall Sat 16-Feb-13 13:05:15

I noticed on OBEM this week, the midwife told her patient that she couldn't have an epidural for 6 hours. The poor girl was pleading for one. When the next midwife came on duty, she said she could have one, and organised it promptly. WTF ?????? So that girl was at the mercy of the firsts MW who had simply decided not to give her one . WRONG !angry

Perriwinkle Sat 16-Feb-13 13:56:30

I'm sure there's an element of midwives feeling that people are fussing and crying "epidural" too.

The other thing about my situation that I have not yet mentioned is the way I was told I couldn't have an epidural. I was first told by the midwife "looking after me" and I use that term advisedly. At no point did I become abusive or rude towards her, I was simply in despair at the news and very upset and frightened about what was to come. I suppose I came across as a pathetic jibbering wreck really. At no point in the preceding nine months had it ever even remotely crossed my mind that I could be refused an epidural when the time came. No one, medical or non medical, had mentioned that this was something that could possibly happen and I'd never ever heard of it happening to anyone else. This meant I was totally unprepared for what happened to me and I was understandably floored in it. At no point was I offered any or the sort of empathy, care or reassurance that you see depicted on One Born Every Minutewhen the camerasare rolling hmm

Next, a rather stern senior midwife came into the room and told me in a rather patronising way why I was being refused one. She came right up close to my face was calling my name and said "now look at me and listen to me carefully". I was crying and at that point I was offered gas and air as an alternative which they knew was clearly stated on my birth plan as being something I didn't want.

My husband and mother were both with me the whole time and found the whole thing very harrowing too. My mother says she'll never forget me looking at her and saying "mum, please do something to help me" and her feeling of helplessness as a mother.

Horrible, hideous experience from start to finish, albeit with a wonderful outcome. sad

Ushy Sat 16-Feb-13 23:41:44

Perri so sorry to hear what you said "Horrible, hideous experience from start to finish"

Actually, it is just the same of the Mid Staffs issue - incompetent, cruel staff.

Not saying they started off like that, but whatever the NHS machine did to them, they end up behaving no better than sadists.

So sorry and a bit angry on your behalf sad

jellybeans Sat 16-Feb-13 23:43:50

I was refused as there were not enough staff on able to do it. Gutted!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now