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After horrible birth at the Royal Free, I've finally had a good birth experience at UCH!

(3 Posts)
schroedingersdodo Mon 19-Nov-12 17:39:58

In 2010 I gave birth to DS1 at the Royal Free, and it was a very bad experience: the antenatal was fairly rubbish (doctors and midwives who couldn't give a damn, basically), but the birth itself was traumatic.

I was told the birthing pool was being used and the birth centre was full and was then taken to the labour ward. I later found out (from more than one reputable source) that they were probably lying: they do that because they can't be bothered with water births and prefer to send mums to labour ward.

I asked for an epidural, but wasn't given one. They kept telling me to try this and that before and never gave me the thing.

Midwife broke my waters without asking! And then she didn't tell me what she was doing. I remember her poking my insides with something and when I asked "What are you doing?" she just remained silent. (I was told I should have made a formal complaint about that, but then two years have passed).

I said I wanted to do the pushing upright. Midwives just forced me to lay down on my back (despite my complaints). I've had a 2nd degree tear (and later what was considered a "mild prolapse), maybe because of the position.

After that I was taken to the postnatal ward, were seen by a very rude midwife but by then I was already so pissed off that I just left and went home, as I couldn't entertain the idea of spending the night there (they tried to bully me into staying, though, and DH and I had to be fairly assertive to be discharged).

A few days later I thought I was having a prolapse, went back to hospital, and was seen was a horrible and rude doctor and an equally nasty midwife. Decided not to bother anymore and paid a private physiotherapist to check my bits and help me fix them.

(Only good things: I was offered several sessions of counselling with a very good counselor because I was considered "at risk of post natal depression" and one midwife stitched me very carefully - she just took the needle from the other midwife, and did it properly. I wish I had asked her name to send her a thank you card!)

This year I found out I was pregnant with DS2, and booked myself in the UCH. It was the best decision.

I've had good antenatal care, most midwives, sonographers, etc were attentive, all the professionals I've met treated me with respect (what a difference).

When I was giving birth I was taken to the birth centre, had my baby in the pool, upright, and - surprise! - only had a first degree tear (which was stitched because that's what I requested on my birth plan). The midwives were respectful, and afterwards I was taken to a room in bedroom, where I spent the night with DH and the baby, leaving the hospital the following morning.

It was a very good experience all around. All the health professionals I've met throughout the pregnancy acted in a professional and respectful way, which shows the difference in ethos between the two hospitals. (at the Royal Free they just treated me as if I was an idiot all the time. And I'm a science journalist over thirty. I can't imagine how they treat a teenage mother...)

I hired a doula this time, as I was so afraid of being treated this time like the Royal Free people treated me. It may have helped (hospital staff tend to treat you better if you have an advocate, like a doula), but the difference in the behaviour of people in both hospitals couldn't be clearer.

I decided to write this post because I see there are some posters here, who work at the Royal Free, who claim the maternity services there are being improved, but that was not what I've seen. Said poster has been in MN for years, and during all this time it seems things at the Royal Free have mostly have been the same. In 2009 I made the mistake of believing things were getting better and decided to give it a try. I wish I hadn't.

If you absolutely have to give birth at the Royal Free, make sure you meet a supervisor of midwives beforehand, hire a doula if you can afford it, make it clear (way before the birth) how you want to be treated and that you're not buying their bullshit when it comes to the birthing pool or the birthing centre (or the epidural). And have in mind some midwives are not remotely bothered about your well being, but more concerned about their own convenience (hence putting me on stirrups to push), and you will have to challenge that.

Or maybe you can try a home birth, as it seems that the community midwives are better than the hospital ones. And pray for not having to be transferred to hospital during labour.

Well, hope this rant is useful to someone. And, well, thanks to the staff of UCH for the healing experience.

McLurkin Mon 19-Nov-12 20:31:17

Sorry about your first birth experience schroedingers, and so glad you had a better one second time round.

Remarkably similar to me! DD's birth at Royal Free in 2010 was horrible. Transferred straight to labour ward from attempted homebirth, because I was desperate for an epidural (having read up afterwards on the kinds of pain, believe it possible DD was back to back, though noone confirmed this). Also was not happy at home with the community midwife, who seemed to have no suggestions, no idea how to comfort me, couldn't work the gas and air, and answered her mobile with her free hand whilst assessing my dilation (whilst I was also having a contraction, screaming at her to get her hand out because it was agony).

Labour ward midwife also wouldn't let me try labouring on all fours, even though the paramedic who came into the room with me suggested I try as that was how I had been coping best with contractions. Stood over me, telling me off for shouting and for not pushing hard enough, and kept saying, "if you don't get it out soon I will have to cut you". Thank goodness DP kept telling her I didn't want an episiotomy as I was in no state to refuse anything given the pain I was in. Ended up with 2nd degree tear, midwife refused to tell me how many stitches, "you don't need to know that", she said. It's my fucking body, I think I can choose what I do and don't need to know!

Rushed to have a shower, blood everywhere, rushed to get out of the room as they needed it for someone else. No interaction at all on the postnatal ward, where I didn't sleep at all, took absolutely ages to discharge us. Apart from the lovely paramedic felt no friendliness from any of the staff there...

Anyway, <breathe>, was completely convinced an enjoyable natural birth was an impossibility and was completely freaked out at the thought of doing it all again with number two.

But, hired a fantastic doula and had DS at Queen Charlottes in April. It was a completely different experience; the midwives read my birthplan and said, "of course we wouldn't instruct you in pushing, of course you can labour in whatever position you want..." as though it was craziness that anyone would do that. I had a lovely birth centre room, dim lighting, lovely atmosphere, very hands-off but reassuring midwife and assistant. Didn't even think about having any pain relief. I felt completely secure and in control the whole time. I made as much noise as much as I wanted. I caught my DS and was the first to hold him. Noone took him away before I could hold him to 'clean him up' or weigh him unnecessarily. I got to lie next to him all night and sleep. I was stitched up only when I was ready, with my clear consent and with the privacy not afforded me first time round. The lovely mw explained where all the stitches were when I asked. I had no pain with my stitches like I did first time round (and feel things are a bit more neat again!)

So, like you, incredibly grateful to the staff at QC and glad to have had such a healing experience. I think part of it was just that it was an easier birth. The pain was certainly nothing like DD's birth. But the care was much much better at QC too.

Having said all that (was good to get it off my chest!) - my doula had seen more recent births at Royal Free and she did think they had improved a lot even since 2010, made some big changes, so I think it's quite possible it's a lot better now, and don't think we should scare anyone booked in at RF without knowing what it's really like now!

schroedingersdodo Tue 20-Nov-12 21:41:44

Hi McLurkin, thanks for your comment, it seems we've had definitely very similar experiences (and thankfully in both cases we managed to have good experiences in the end).

I also remember the staff at UCH looking at me bemused saying things like "of course we wouldn't break your waters without permission!" or "we don't force people to lay down on their backs to push!" Well, these things should be obvious, but as I found out, some midwives don't do the obvious...

I hope things are better at the Royal Free now, but from what I've heard they still fob women off the birthing pool, so I'm not sure they have changed that much... The whole point is: maybe if someone had scared me in 2010, I would have either found another place to give birth or went for it much more prepared.

So I think that, although we don't know how things are there now, our stories can provide women with useful information - if nothing else, they can ask a supervisor of midwives for reassurance that things like that don't happen anymore.

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