“I never ever want to be in a situation like that again”
As part of our campaign for #BetterPostnatalCare, one anonymous Mumsnetter describes how her experiences with postnatal care put her off having any more children.
The Mumsnet Campaign for Better Postnatal Care
Posted on: Thu 04-May-17 09:38:12
(43 comments )
'Get me the biggest thing between two slices of bread that McDonald's sells, bugger the veggie burger and YES, supersize it!'
As a vegetarian of more than 20 years, that is a sentence I never thought I’d say. But I did say it and this is why.
During my second pregnancy, I had SPD (Symphis pubic dysfunction, which results in severe pelvic pain) pretty much from the moment the line turned blue on the pregnancy test. I was on crutches at eight weeks and an electric wheelchair from 19 weeks. Not exactly my idea of fun - but if I wanted to be able to get out of the house with my then three-year-old I had no choice in the matter. By the end of pregnancy, I was able to walk only with crutches or holding onto someone, and even then only short distances. To put it in perspective, from my bed to my bathroom is 15 steps. That was the limit of my walking ability.
I was booked in for an induction at my request and for health reasons. Even though we had paid for a private room (which we did primarily so that I had a toilet within walking distance) I was told that I was not allowed to bring in my (electric) wheelchair due to space limitations. I was told that hospital ‘wheelchairs’ were available - but trying to self-propel a hospital wheelchair is almost impossible, as they are designed to be pulled by someone else. The midwives refused to do this, as it was contrary to their manual handling policy.
I won't be having any more children, at least partly because I never want to be in a situation like that again.
On the morning following the birth, I was told that if I wanted food (of course I did!) then I would have to leave my baby in the central nursery and go down to the dining room, which was a distance of about 100m. I could only just walk to my bathroom at home, so there was no way I would be able to get to the dining room.
While they were happy to come in repeatedly, usually by throwing the door open with a total disregard for my privacy and lecturing me on totally irrelevant things such as when I would resume marital relations with my DH (answer: when hell freezes over); asking them for a sandwich from the supposedly free-access-whenever fridge was tantamount to asking them to cut their own heads off. I was told it was 'policy' for patients to go to the dining room so they could 'bond' with the other mothers.
My choices were to crawl or to starve, essentially. So when DH came in that lunchtime with his lunch of a McDonald's chicken burger meal hidden under his coat (he thought I would have already had lunch) I polished off every bite of it, before sending him out for more. At that time it was the best thing I have ever tasted. Seriously. Tea and toast - nah. Lukewarm McChicken is where it’s at.
There were other issues, too. There was also no shower chair, so I was unable to have a shower - and the midwives didn't know how to use the bath hoist in the bathroom. I knew, but as I wasn’t manual-handling trained I wasn't allowed to use it either. By this point I was beginning to question if there even was a manual-handling policy.
The issues I faced were eventually put down to staffing issues.
I was offered a birth afterthoughts service but after being made to feel like an afterthought myself, the very last thing I ever want to do is return to that hospital. I won’t be having any more children either, at least partly because I never ever want to be in a situation like that again, with my basic needs ignored under the guise of 'policy'.
And I've not eaten a chicken burger since.
Click here find out more about the Mumsnet Campaign for Better Postnatal Care.
It sounds as if the staff on your ward have forgotten that they are mean to be nurses as well as midwives - and that whilst most post-natal women can manage to get to the dining room/bathroom etc, with few difficulties, some women need proper care - and you were one of them.
You were utterly failed by your post natal midwives and staff.
As a student nurse, back in the
Dark Ages 1980s, I was taught to assess each patient according to Maslow's heirachy of needs - to see which of these the patient could meet themselves, and which they needed help with - and then we wrote a care plan based on that. If a patient could not walk to the bathroom, their care plan stated they would be wheeled to and from, and assisted with their hygiene needs. If they couldn't get to the table for their meal, the care plan stated that their meals would be brought to them - and if they needed help to cut up their food, or to eat it, the care plan outlined that too.
And woe betide anyone who left a meal out of reach of a bed bound patient, or who didn't make sure that her patients had as much of their meal as they wanted, and plenty of fluids too!
There is a lot that is good about nurse training now, and about the professional status of nurses and midwives - but they have lost some of the basics of care - things that I was taught from day 1, that are vital to ensuring that a patient recovers quickly and as well as possible.
I'm not usually an emotional person, but this OP made me cry... and support the MN campaign.
This is similar to my experience, but that was 20 years ago, and I would have hoped things would have improved.
When I had my first DC, by emergency CS, in was told I had to get to the dining room for meals. After over 24 hours in labour, an epidural, and losing a lot of blood, I was faint when sitting up, and had the shakes. No food til the next day when DH came in (and he could only get toast within visiting time).
I think its down to individual staff meanness frankly, on the second day, a different ward sister told me to stay in bed when I was trying to stand, and brought my meal.
It wasn't nearly as bad as that when I had DCs 1&2, but the whole post natal experience in hospital was just 'not great'. I opted for a home birth with DC3 and loved every second!
Sorry you had such a shit time, OP.
That sounds awful I'm so sorry. I feel similarly about my aftercare when I had DD last year. I have a medical condition that meant I needed extra sleep and rest but none of the staff seemed aware of it and there was no chance of sleep on a crammed ward when DH had to leave at 10pm and midwives were short staffed. When I developed an infection I realised before any of the staff did and despite describing my symptoms had to ask for someone to take my temperature. Then they missed one of my drug doses so I got worse instead of better. And no-one seemed able to put an iV line in properly so I ended up with my arms covered in bruises and with blood all over the sheets - which were then not changed for over six hours. After 5 days in hospital my DH practically carried me out as he was convinced I would never get better without proper quiet and sleep. How anyone is supposed to recover from labour - never mind a secondary illness - in a ward with four screaming babies I have no idea.
Mothers are not supposed to be disabled. Full stop.
You dare to be anything other than ruggedly hale and hearty (with an equally hale partner to pick up the slack), even if your disability is pregnancy related, and you see very quickly how shit hospitals are at basic caring and health.
I was bullied, shouted at and refused medical help, by midwives on a post natal ward. I left there in a terrible state that it took me months to recover from. Let's just think about that again... an ill person was treated so badly they left hospital in significantly worse health than they came in.
Not to mention traumatized and terrified.
I support this campaign but don't think it will work, it would require such a MASSIVE attitude and behaviour change.
And go against the established trend for worse and worse basic healthcare, and worse and worse excuses about why the vulnerable have to let themselves be treated worse than shit.
My experience was far away from yours OP but I thought worth adding.
I discharged myself from hospital less than 3 hours after DS was born. So quickly in fact that my parents only arrived 10 mins before I left.
Obviously I was lucky the birth went well and at the time we lived a 5 min walk to the hospital (I walked there in labour). In that time, I'd successfully BF, had tea/toast and been to the bathroom - which is the reason I left.....
I desperately wanted to "clean up". I'd had a minor superficial tear and had blood on my lower half.
I was shown to a bathroom by the MW. I walked in to what looked like a murder scene. A toilet covered in blood. Used sanitary protection on the floor. A filthy sink, complete with hairs and soap scum. A shower and bath both with much blood and pubic hair.
It was a health hazard.
I appreciate this wasn't the fault of the MW but it was obvious that the room had not been checked and cleaned.
I walked out and found the "guest" toilet on the ward.
I then told DH I was going home so I could clean myself in sanitary conditions. He thought I was exaggerating but looked in the bathroom and came back ashen faced and started packing my things.
We reported it, but pretty much got the bums rush about private cleaners and funding - as if that made it all ok then .
I was ok - but I've always been mindful of other women at the unit that day. Many of them didn't live close (this was a big thing as I knew I could pop back very quickly) and more importantly had had births that required extensive recovery. How would they have coped? Were they expected to don rubber gloves and start scrubbing?
I was on a post-natal ward for two weeks while me c/s healed. One friend brought me in a MaccyDs, my DH brought me in a Subway!
I had a similar experience to you and fully support this campaign.
I was left in the private room that I paid for which wasn't cleaned once in 5 days I was told to clean my own bedding and change my own sheets and wash my own anti embolitic stockings despite the fact that I couldnt stand! They didnt empty my catheter even when the bag was nearly bursting and i had pain in my bladder.
I wasn't told how to get lunch or breakfast or anything and was basically left to fend for myself so I survived by my husband going home every day between midnight and six and rushing back to help me as I couldnt even lift the baby out of the cot.
This is after a labour where they almost killed my baby due to failure to act when he was I distress and failing to listen to me in labour that they needed to get him out. They assaulted me by prising my legs apart and putting them I stirrups so they could examine me again for the 100th time and I refused. Thy ignored me despite the fact I was screaming. It to and that I had written in my. It's not to extend me legs due to severe spd.
We didn't get to see my baby being born as they had to run me to theatre and put me to sleep to get him out quickly. Thy left my husband sat in a room for an hour by himself so he thought I may have died whilst I was in theatre. I could go on but I also couldn't go through that again so you're post really stupid icky a cord with me.
First prestigious hospital, placenta left behind and I was in constant pain. Hobbling down the corridor in agny, nurse walks past..it's wind...and goes off for hot toast and tea. Second birth in tatty local hospital - lovely caring nurses.
I had an epidural for an emergency c-section, so was wheeled to the ward after surgery, completely numb from the waist down and catheterised.
I couldn't move never mind get out of bed. I was told food is in the dining room. I had to ask over and over again for food; and when none came I got family to bring food from home.
I was told get up as soon as possible as I had to take dressing off c-section scar in shower. On shaky legs I did what I was told, but was left alone and terrified to pull off the dressing.
I didn't know it at the time, but I had an infected wound. This didn't clear for 5 months. So i wasn't making it up when I said it hurt.
The ward was hot, very noisy and understaffed.
I went home hungry, traumatised, exhausted and in a lot of pain.
I support this campaign. The ward I was on was dirty and the bathroom was horrific!
It was the hottest day of the year but they had the radiators on. Nurses apparently couldn't turn them off and it was only sorted when I rang their press office and told them that the Daily Mail love stories like this and that I had the means to contact them.
Op I'm so sorry you had to go through this. It made my stomach wrench to read it. I don't think it's sunk in how lucky I was with my births and treatment during.
It's revolting that any of you have had to suffer in this way in this day and age. Slashes funding to the NHS is doing so much damage.
Disgusting complacency and on top of a poor culture.
These nurses shame the profession.
Oh op. I'm sorry you went through that.
I had an utterly dehumanising time after my first two births with the NHS. I feel traumatised by them even a decade later. It was the unkindness of the nurses that made it so hard - there was no need for them to be so harsh. I was broken, scared, bleeding, unable to walk, desperately thirsty, hungry, so, so tired, vulnerable, and they could have been kind. One lady was, and I will never forget her. She wasn't a nurse or a midwife, she was a support helper of some sort and she was just going off shift but she stayed to helped me wash the ankle to neck meconium off dd after her nappy exploded and the nurses said it was my job to wash my baby, and wouldn't help me. I couldn't stand up! And they shouted at me for trying to shuffle to the bathroom, leaning on the corridor wall.
I had left the UK by the time I had my 3rd, and her birth was so different.
The cuts to maternity services leave the NHS liable to lawsuit so don't make any financial sense. Damaged families are not a good start to tomorrow's society and will prove more expensive over time. Happy mum, happy baby needs to be applied with strong emphasis on mental health and observing the rules of good medicine. Sanitation, hydration, nutrition should be matter of fact and easily achieved.
Get the proper care in place, spend the money to ensure space, staff and most importantly good sense. The current government policy of abusing the non wealthy and trying to return us to private health care and workhouse culture is wrong and short sighted. We should invest in our future, that means investing in the best possible maternity care.
The care of post natal women is a huge issue: I'm an an ICU nurse with a specialist interest in the care of obstetric patients requiring critical care - yes, it's a fairly small amount of women but the impact on them and their family is massive. Some of these women have had pregnancy / birth related complications such as pre/eclampsia, massive obstetric haemorrhage etc, some have prexisting conditions which mean they need closer monitoring.
As we all know the NHS is hugely under resourced and in dire straits but this doesn't excuse poor care and ambivalent attitudes. Although the majority of the midwives I've met both professionally and personally are great, a big issue is training: modern midwives have very very little general nursing training which only serves to propagate the belief that "pregnancy isn't an illness." No, in itself it isn't, but for many women it can exacerbate existing conditions or be extremely debilitating in itself. Many of the midwives that I know, and crucially, this is by their own admission, do not have the knowledge and skills to recognise the deteriorating obstetric patient, especially as these signs can initially be quite subtle.
In addition to this, more and more women are having babies while dealing with significant pre existing conditions which require knowledge and awareness or at least consideration.
I really really believe that midwives need far more general nursing training in their degree programmes so that woman are given appropriate holistic care, especially when pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period aren't as straightforward they could be.
I'm NOT midwife bashing! I know exactly what it's like in the NHS st the moment but these stories need listening to.
<Climbs off soap box>
The attitude towards women in maternity services is atrocious. In no other area could people get away with treating service users so badly when they are at their most vulnerable.
The culture is to treat women not only with a lack of decency but with contempt.
I was treated badly, however I saw others - especially those who did not have English as a first language - treated even worse. It was totally acceptable for the staff to be rude, to shout at, and to humiliate the mothers. It was as though they enjoyed the power over the helpless.
Until nurses are recruited for their patient care and not for their ability to pass exams this will not change. I too have just one child, mainly because I could not countenance going through the birth and hospital experience again.
Totally agree with Anne in that the main issue is culture. And I genuinely believe that even if someone could wave a magic wand and improve staff/patient ratios, women would still receive shitty care because shitty care is normal and expected.
It's been nearly six years since I gave birth to my first child, and I don't think I'll ever forget how unkind and uncaring the staff were, and how frightening that felt to me, a traumatised first time mother who'd had a bad tear, was in pain, and was still attached to a catheter. I was fully expected to walk around and fetch my own food even though I could barely manage pigeon steps. Once I managed it (although I was terrified to leave my baby unattended) and was told I was too late, they'd stopped serving food. Despite the fact I'd ordered a particular meal, so where had it gone?
Every time I rang for help I was made to feel like a nuisance and they left again within moments.
The worst days of my life. I am convinced the severe anxiety and depression I suffered from afterwards was PTSD.
What is it about maternity wards that makes them hell on earth?? I had to stay in for two days Dyer having an emergency c-section and the only meal I ate was a cold McDonald's egg mcmuffin that DP brought in for me, as every time I stood up I thought my incision was going to tear open, and apparently it was not procedure to eat in bed on the maternity ward?!
And don't get me started on pain management - my god, how are we supposed to cope with a newborn, to breastfeed, we are expected to just get on as normal, immediately after having major surgery, on paracetamol alone?! And even then one day they 'forgot' to do the medication round on the post-caesarean ward, leaving six women crying in pain.
As with a previous poster the one shower and toilet we had access to was beyond disgusting, with overflowing sanitary bin and blood all over the toilet seat.
On the other hand, four months after this I had an appendicectomy in the same hospital and could not have been treated better - they even brought me a hot chocolate and I wasn't expected to move at all!
very sad reading this thread, had my first child 18 years ago, blood soaked bathroom, paracetamol only pain relief offered and only if you begged, not able to eat unless able to make it to the dayroom( relied on OH to bring food it) and unfriendly/unhelpful nurses. Really hoped things would improve, it would seem they have not. I did use the Birth Afterthoughts service as several errors occured during the birth and discoved my little girl had been recorded in the notes as a boy. When I had my second baby six years later I discharged myself straight after the birth. It breaks my heart to think that women are still being treated in this way, its a disgrace.
So, so, sad to hear these stories . My experience wasn't good, but nothing like some of yours. My heart goes out to you.
Ds1s birth (hospital) was not a good experience. Ended up on a drip, internal monitoring and ventouse delivery. Kept in hospital another three days before discharge ( jaundice scare) and hated every minute of it. Experience led to me opting to have ds2 and dd at home and was so much better!
As a disabled person having a baby I was treated pretty much the same!
The amount of times I had to say "Erm, I'm Disabled??" was ridiculous! I felt like I was talking to the wall. But I persisted on getting the care I & my baby deserved! So I just requested different midwives come to speak to me and got it sorted. Little unsure as to why the OP didn't say something? Or be persistent if she did say something?? With that being said, I still empathise 100% and I am so sorry that the SPD & your hospital experience has lead to you feeling like you can't have more. Life is unfair & cruel x