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Birth injury/trauma legal advice

(28 Posts)
topolone Mon 09-Sep-13 17:46:37

Hi all,
this is my first message here and I am very thankful that there are such tools in internet to help each other.

My son was born in June after a very long labour… is our first and we were inexperienced on all the labour thing.. of course we had a class and my partner did search informations about it since day one but still we weren't ready… because everywhere they tell you what to expect but not what to expect if the things don't go the right way.

Labour was about 23hrs, in which I saw every possible method of birth delivery… from natural without painkillers, with painkillers then forceps and suction cap and after all caesarean. It was a very traumatic and my partner was of course up in the joy of having a baby but as today she doesn't want to talk about it. She's very strong and very calm but I'm sure she's angry to the fact that we weren't treated correctly. (On 23hrs you get different midwifes/doctors that follows you and I can understand they could loose track of time of their patients if changing shifts but we are people not machines, after a certain amount of time they should call it off and go for caesarean directly)

My son seems alright now, loud as expected and smiling, as a result of the attempts using the suction cap he has a visible scar on his head, now I keep repeating myself that is going to be small and the hair will cover it but of course as you may know it's cause of great frustration because no-one so little should suffer such injuries and you keep blaming yourself everyday.

My main concern is of course my partner. She's very strong as I said, but I must do something for her and especially for whoever is going to find themselves in a similar situation. We want to seek for legal advice, not because we want "revenge" but just to understand if the things were done properly.. when you find yourself after 20hrs and you stand between your partner and 9 persons is a bit difficult, believe me to find the strength to oppose your self… also because you have that idea that "they know better"… if I could go back in time I would absolutely say that's it we want caesarean (which by the way we asked, but they say it wasn't possible because of the baby position and then after 30min we were in the theatre anyway….)

I would like some suggestion for legal advice:

- Do you have any recommendation regarding a professional law firm that follows Birth Injury claims? Were you satisfied with the results?
- Can I ask for maternity records? shall I leave it to the Birth Injury? (If I want to ask it on my own, my partner is very sensible about the matter, will they allow me? I'm not married to her)
- Have you find yourself in a similar situation? What's your story?

PS. I really wish that the day I spent on a class about birth and so on was focused on the things that can go wrong because when is your first… you don't know how long it should take and all the small things…signals…that things are not going well… you should be able to recognised them….moreover because you trust them 100% when you're there but at the end unfortunately was better to trust yourself…


Thanks in advance for any answer/suggestion you are going to give me.

vj32 Mon 09-Sep-13 19:09:31

I requested my medical notes and a senior midwife went through them with me. She was very honest about the things that went wrong in my labour - which was partly staff error, although a sort of understandable error/judgement call type thing which would have been right for hundreds of women but wasn't for me. A whole series of things, which were really no-ones fault, led to long labour with prolonged pushing stage, then hour or so of investigations with Drs with no pain relief, then an emergency section.

What do you think the hospital staff did that was wrong in your partner's case?

I don't think there is any chance the hospital would give your partner's records to you, you have no right to see them.

Most importantly, what does your partner want? I couldn't talk about DS's birth for months without crying about it, but eventually it was OK. Is she ready to go back over what happened yet?

vj32 Mon 09-Sep-13 19:13:04

My son also had/has scars under his hair from the blood tests he had during labour. He is now 2 and they are barely visible although the scratches were very visible when he was small.

DontCallMeDaughter Mon 09-Sep-13 19:15:18

I'm so sorry to hear this, it sounds terrible.

I suggest you contact Birthrights, http://www.birthrights.org.uk/ , they will be able to help you.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 09-Sep-13 20:45:51

Firstly congratulations on the birth of you son.
My DD was born after a 38 hour labour. I deliver babies of other species, so am very aware of the things that can go wrong in labour and delivery. There was a period of 6 hours when my labour I know was handled incorrectly by the Ob on duty. It all changed when she went off duty and a new Ob came on.
My daughter had an obvious mispresentations that was not picked up until we were totally committed to a vaginal delivery. Had the first Ob done an internal examination my daughter would have been born by c-section 10 hours earlier than she finally arrived in the world.
However, my DD and I are both fine so we have not suffered any measurable loss so beyond the fact that I know they have changed protocols after my labour I have not pursued it any further. I felt I would have caused myself a tremendous amount of pain reliving it all pursuing it and just wanted that chapter firmly closed.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 09-Sep-13 20:57:59

Do you think they were actually negligent?

I'm not been funny, but you say that your partner was in labour for 23 hours and they should have gone for a section earlier. 14- 18 hours is generally considered the length of the average labour depending what source you use. So 23 hours is longer, but not way off the scale and she was progressing as she obv got to 10 cm.

Have you asked the hospital for a debriefing session? Many hospitals will offer this service with a senior midwife. It won't be a covering up exercise at all. If things went wrong they should say. But more importantly it may help you understand what happened and why. They will go through your notes with you.

Please don't blame yourself for anything. You do trust staff in hospitals and I doubt a class would have made a difference.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Lioninthesun Mon 09-Sep-13 21:00:28

You should speak to the follow up Midwives about seeing someone for counselling (make it clear this isn't for post natal depression but concerns of how the birth was taken care of in the hospital). I was so lucky that the hospital near me had a lady who set up her own clinic for women who had had C-Sections and hadn't got over them before a new pregnancy. It took me months to see her, which was horrible and not great, but when I did she asked me to describe what I thought had happened. Then she went over the notes and said I had it practically verbatim - obviously you don't have the notes so they can tell you if you misunderstood something at any given point when they go over this with you. For me they had lost the aftercare notes. I had a 3 day labour and was given an emergency c-section at the last min as I could barely focus on people in the room let alone push! However I could feel my catheter the whole way through even with the epidural and kicked out several times. They pumped me full of different drugs x3 at that point and I couldn't keep track of time after that. Apparently DD was alone (with my doula) for about 45mins with no milk but it felt like 10mins to me, while they sewed me back up. I had lost so much blood she said I was only .1 off needing a transfusion and the lady counselling me said they should have kept me in for 5 days for that alone, but they almost forced me out of the door in 3, knowing I had no help at home. I never got a bed bath and was made to stagger over the hall for a shower in blood stained stockings that I had had on since the op.
They refused a visitor because she was 5mins late, even though I hadn't had a visitor on the second day at all. I never had the same nurse twice and one left my lunch on the other side of the room so I had to call a nurse to get it for me when I realised I still couldn't move my legs properly to stand up and get it... It was pretty dire.
The lady counselling was shocked and said so. This was as good as I thought I was going to get to be honest and didn't have the energy with a NB to take it further. NHS isn't focused on birth - massive shortage of midwives etc. All polls say we are one of the worst countries for giving birth, and I have to say they are accurate for once!
I think the best advice is to try to just move on. Get counselling by all means but pursuing it for years through the Courts won't make it have been any better. Sorry.

specialsubject Mon 09-Sep-13 21:30:14

please don't blame yourself.

please do ask for the counselling you need, and please ask the hospital to review what happened and work out how they can reduce the odds of this in future.

It sounds like your baby is unharmed except for a scar that will not be visible. That's really good news.

please don't involve lawyers. NHS money should not go to this.

kittycat68 Tue 10-Sep-13 08:53:09

whilst i understand that you both did not have an untroubled birth, things arnt always standard when having a baby. You say you want legal advice? you have no claim from what you describe, i would suggest you change tact and just focus on your partner and child.

fledtoscotland Tue 10-Sep-13 10:18:38

Firstly I'm not trying to belittle the trauma you've been through as a family but please think about how you proceed. Suing the trust just depletes already finite resources without addressing the issue.

Definitely get your gp to get a copy of the birth notes to "debrief" your partner and add closure but ultimately you have a healthy mother & child.

Fwiw - my sons head was fractured during a ventouse delivery. There were many complications (following on from a complicated pregnancy) and I gave birth under consultant care. I haven't taken legal action as although they fractured his skull, the team saved his life by hauling him out when his heart rate plummeted. My GP requested the notes so I didn't have to pay (although I didn't keep a copy of them).

Focus on what you have rather than what didn't happen

HolidayArmadillo Tue 10-Sep-13 10:22:14

I think your partner needs to contact the hospital in which she delivered to try and get a debrief. From what you have written you have no grounds for legal action. Good luck and congratulations on your baby.

ishchel Tue 10-Sep-13 12:20:49

I would suggest getting the birth notes first. If you are interested in speaking to someone independent of the hospital about what happened, (it can be a lottery how the hospital staff will conduct a debrief) then I'd suggest speak to a private antenatal teacher or a doula. There will be some in your area. It is a matter of looking through the right channels to find one. It shouldn't be expensive to have someone go through your notes and chat about them with you.

This type of 'cascade of intervention' which you describe is typical of maternity care that is no longer woman centred in an NHS which sees cutting cost as the ultimate good. I speak as someone who has been there, done that, and wears the T-shirt. (google cascade of intervention and a host of reading will come up which can help you understand what happened.)

I also suggest that you and your partner visit the Birth Trauma Association website and have a read. And phone up to speak to someone by all means! I would not be surprised if you are suffering a level of trauma yourself.

Lastly, she can speak to her GP for counselling if she is suffering mentally with the issues around the birth. I suffered PTSD from the first birth which did not kick in fully for a few months. By then I was so wholly distrustful of and angry with midwives and health visitors so they were the last people I would approach for help. My GP has been very supportive and has referred me to the mental health service for treatment.

Good luck. It can be a long road to empowerment but it must start somewhere. You have already taken the first steps by posting on here.

ishchel Tue 10-Sep-13 12:28:26

"but ultimately you have a healthy mother & child." fledtoscotland I know your intentions are good but this is a very belittling statement.

To say that ultimately you have a healthy mother and child is to say that her life as a vessel is more important that having a healthy body and a healthy mind.

Looking at a woman and baby who are not physiologically damaged (to you) does not mean that she is not mentally scarred by the experience which can last a lifetime. If there is physical damage from a ventouse, scarring her reproductive organs as well. A baby deserves a mother that is physically and mentally healthy. The mental health is easily ignored because no one can see the damage. And not everyone wants to acknowledge that it exists either.

pyrrah Tue 10-Sep-13 12:41:08

I would look into counselling rather than legal action.

I had a 54 hour labour with DD which ended up as rotational forceps after a failed ventouse due to DD getting stuck in my pelvis (deep transverse arrest). I then had a massive haemorrhage and lost nearly 3 litres of blood, lost consciousness and spent 3 days in HDU having 5 transfusions. Was very unwell for several weeks afterwards.

That said, I don't fault the staff at all. They did everything they should have done, including saving my life. There were many reasons why we couldn't do a cs.

I recovered fine mentally - I don't remember much to be honest - but my husband was left very traumatised.

I know one consultant in London who actually runs a clinic for men who were traumatised by their child's birth.

I don't think legal action will help you - it will just be very expensive for both sides - a proper debrief and chance to talk things through would probably be the most helpful. I have an OB friend and she spent a lot of time going over things for me and helping me work through it. DH refused to do this and it's part of the reason we only have one child.

ChasedByBees Tue 10-Sep-13 12:46:06

I went through a similar experience and I know in my case, my perspective is that without medical intervention, my child and I would have probably died. So, although I wish the birth had been easier and there were things that could have been better (I stopped progressing for 10 hours before they went to full induction so the total labour time could have been reduced and the decisions they made before induction meant I missed two nights sleep needlessly before labour even started) it was what it was.

For me, the post labour debrief helped. However, if you are not the person who have birth though, you have no right to records (I'm assuming you are a partner who watched the birth?)

titchy Tue 10-Sep-13 12:50:31

Be honest with yourself - you're after financial compensation, not healing for your partner or child. Your first bullet point asks for recommendations for someone dealing with birth injury claims, not a recommendation for a PTSD counsellor, or birth trauma counsellor for your dp.

For that reason have a biscuit

mistlethrush Tue 10-Sep-13 12:59:38

DS was 34 hrs coming - including along the way 3 failed epidurals (one resulting in 3 hrs with no pain relief on syncotin drip) forceps trial (didn't get beyond one) and emcs. DS just managed to wedge his shoulders in a way that meant he got stuck. Is anyone 'to blame' for me not getting my imagined drug-free, natural waterbirth? No. We're both fine and despite the number of staff changes over that period, generally the staff were pretty good. And the consultant was lovely - and ultimately, DS and I were both OK even if it didn't go remotely to plan.

MrsBungle Tue 10-Sep-13 13:09:35

I agree with those advising to get hold of the birth notes and ask for a de-briefing session.

I had a 52 hour labour, baby eventually born by forceps and she had to be resuscitated due to the trauma of her birth. She had a scar on her face which has gone completely. I had no pain relief and a lot of damage. I went over and over every minute of the birth for a good year afterward.

It wasn't until I got pregnant again that I had a session with my consultant. We went through my previous birth notes. It was amazing just to have my experience validated- I wasn't a wimp, some things were mismanaged, some things were just the way things go. I felt loads better after that meeting. I felt confident for my next birth as my consultant had promised a management plan - which was stuck to. My second birth was 1 hour 54 minutes and was brilliant.

Legal action would have been no good for me at all and apart from some issues, there's no real lasting damage.

Speaking to a professional about what happened might help your partner and you immensely.

fledtoscotland Tue 10-Sep-13 15:30:44

Ischel - it's not belittling. It's factual. Having nearly lost DS1 during childbirth - he had a fractured skull but was ultimately alive - I feel its a valid point. Yes definitely get the birth notes but what is legal action going to achieve?

ishchel Tue 10-Sep-13 17:02:50

It is factual from your experience and world view. Not aplicable therefore to everyone else's. and it is belittling.

itwasarubythatshewore Tue 10-Sep-13 22:08:30

To prove medical negligence you will need to show that:
- the actions of the doctor(s) departed significantly from what most doctors would/should have done in the same situation (i.e. common practice); and
- injury or outcome is directly attributable to the negligent act(s)

Mistakes or errors in judgement do not necessarily mean there was negligence or a case to make a claim.

I agree with all the posters who have advised you to request a midwife goes through the notes with you and your partner for a debrief so that you can understand what happened.

cestlavielife Wed 11-Sep-13 15:03:37

succesful claims usually relate to severe brain damage, disabilities for life etc and the award is needed to pay for long term care.
www.irwinmitchell.com/personal/personal-injury-compensation/medical-negligence/pregnancy-birth-and-gynaecology-injury-claims/client-stories for example

a scar on head is not in that league... tho you could of course consult lawyers to see if you have a case. but the amout of compensation likely surely would not make it worthwhile? so right now you have nothing to go on, on that score.

however, clearly, your partner and you need a full debrief and outline of how things might be managed better in a future birth. go thru th PALS at the hospital to get this www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1082.aspx?CategoryID=68&SubCategoryID=153

topolone Mon 23-Sep-13 09:20:55

Thanks for all the answer, really is not about at all the money.. seeing everyday that little miracle with that scar on his head is something painful, i wish I could have prevent that...how would you feel if they pull your head and break your skin doing that?...I'm really afraid the scar is going to grow with him and since is 1cm wide now with no hair.. not sure if is going to be bigger...I don't understand how in 2013 we still use ventouse and forceps... they should be banned.

Again, thanks for the answers.

alreadytaken Mon 23-Sep-13 09:51:47

The scar will be covered by hair eventually and it will also look considerably less noticeable with time. I think what you are really looking for is confirmation that it couldn't have been prevented. Certainly attending another class (or 3) would not have helped.

A caesarean is a major operation and your partner needs time to recover. Her doctors would have been balancing what was best for your wife against what was best for the baby and trying to do their best for both their patients. Perhaps things could have been done differently but a minor scar as the result of an attempt to avoid a major operation doesn't sound like a terrible result. Legal action doesn't sound appropriate and would possibly make people more defensive when you want them to be open about what occurred.

I would suggest you write a polite letter saying that you need to come to terms with a difficult labour, request a copy of the notes and ask for your wife to sign it. Then discuss with your gp or a midwife/doula. It's entirely possible that there was no negligence, and hence nothing to complain about, but there may be implications for other possible pregnancies. At the moment this is something your partner won't want to think about.

You should know that complications of some sort are present in a large number of births. A normal delivery (one without induction, without the use of instruments, not by caesarean section and without general, spinal or epidural anaesthetic before or during delivery. Excluded are any other procedures not relating to an unassisted delivery except repair of laceration.) is actually a minority of births, or was last time I looked.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 23-Sep-13 11:46:51

In answer to your question why are ventose and forceps still used in 2013. Because in a large number of cases these methods of delivery are still safer than caesarian section. There are some cases where caesarian is not an option as the baby is too low in the birth canal and ventose or forceps are the only option left. With my DD without forceps we both would have died, c-section would have saved my life, but not hers. I was told this before the procedure started that if they had to go to section I would live, but DD would die. She arrived via the foceps with huge graze like marks down her face as they had to hold on to her very tightly and is alive.
The scar tissue is likely to contract and get smaller over time rather than grow as the healing process occurs. My DD had emergency surgery as a 5 month old (actually due to medical negligence, but that is another story) she was left with a pretty large scar behind her ear this has contracted over time so whilst it is still there it is quite a lot smaller.
From my own experience time is a great healer and a debrief does really help. In my case the midwife acknowledging that what I went through was awful, a particular doctor had been disciplined for her actions and that protocols had been changed in the hospital really helped. There was no actual negligence, just things could have been done in a better way. I also took that opportunity to praise the doctor who actually delivered DD, she came on shift to be dumped with an awful situation and inspite of this treated me with incredible care and compassion.

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