What Mumsnetters say about postnatal care

Postnatal care

We asked Mumsnetters about their experiences of NHS postnatal care – here's what they had to say

Mumsnetters on… being hungry and thirsty

“I had a traumatic breech birth and labour that lasted several days – and the postnatal care was horrible. Food was left out of reach and water was never topped up despite the ward being so hot.”

“Expecting new mums to walk to a kitchen with their baby and build their own tray of food for breakfast after a birth and limited sleep is insane. Food is an important part of the recovery process. Patients recovering from operations have food brought to them – why don't new mums?”

“I had a c-section, but I was expected to walk to the day room for breakfast. I was unable to walk at that point, so I did not get fed. On what other ward would it be acceptable to expect patients to walk to get their own food after major surgery?”

The catering staff would not leave me food when I visited my baby in NICU during the day. I was too weak from the c-section to go to the concourse to get lunch. I fainted from hunger at one point.

“Staff just left me to get on with it. I didn't get much to eat.”

“I came onto the postnatal ward after having a spinal block. I was hungry, cold and extremely thirsty after being nil by mouth for nearly 12 hours. That was 8pm. I had no bell for the nurse and could not move due to the circulation boots they had put on me. I finally got a drink of water at 2am and that was from another mother on the ward who heard me crying. I had one cold meal in three days before I discharged myself, despite not being well enough to go home.”

Mumsnetters on… getting painkillers when you need them

“I had a drain and an extended wound, lots of blood loss and was unable to pass urine. This information was not passed on, which meant I was in a lot of pain and found it difficult to get staff attention.”

Unbelievable lack of communication after an emergency c-section. No painkillers unless I asked for them, but I didn't know I had to ask.

“Less than 24 hours after a c-section, I had to ask continuously over 2.5 hours for pain relief. I went from being in mild discomfort when I first asked, to being in agony by the time the morphine was finally delivered.”

Mumsnetters on… effects on mental health

“The postnatal ward was awful. We left earlier than we should have and we ended up back in hospital; it was the beginning of hellish mental health difficulties for me. I am pregnant again now, and I am scared.”

I was in a lot of pain after a c-section. My call button fell on the floor and I was unable to get staff attention. I discharged myself because I was being ignored and had not been offered any food. The experience contributed massively to decline in my mental health, which resulted in a stay in the mother and baby unit.

“I had twins who were taken into special care a couple of hours after birth, internal bleeding, water on my lungs and the beginnings of kidney failure. One twin had been diagnosed with meningitis. I was left on my own at night with both twins; I was barely able to stand and had had two major operations. My postpartum psychosis set in two days later.”

“Being in a four-bed ward with other women and newborns after birth and when sleep-deprived has a really significant impact on mental health and recovery, in my opinion. The lack of privacy and being subjected to other people's noise, babies crying and hearing others' pain is completely suboptimal at such a sensitive time.”

Mumsnetters on… not getting enough help on the ward

“I hadn't slept in three days and my baby was vomiting up blood and no one seemed bothered. It was terrifying. I have multiple sclerosis – surely I was entitled to a bit of help looking after my son in the hospital.”

“I'd had an episiotomy and was worried that the area hadn't been washed since the birth. I was very weak and every time I tried to make it to the bathroom I felt like I was going to faint. I asked for help repeatedly; I was told not to worry because apparently “it's a dirty part of the body anyway.” In the end I just said I wanted to go home. I ended up with a major infection."

“There are weird expectations of women who've had c-sections. On the one hand, you shouldn't push a pram. On the other, you have to push the (heavy) hospital cot to the loo.”

Mumsnetters on… the good stuff

“Amazing help from the team getting breastfeeding started. It was a midwife who is also an infant feeding advisor who got us to crack it. I mentally thank her often; my boy is two years and nine months and still feeding. Big shout out to Elaine Mead, CEO of Raigmore Hospital, Inverness for banning Bounty reps in 2013 too.”

“The whole team in South Worcestershire, out of Royal Worcester, are fabulous. They cared for me and my daughter with empathy and compassion in very difficult circumstances. But, they are badly underfunded and understaffed.”

“Fabulous breastfeeding help, one senior hospital midwife in particular in Basingstoke. They helped overcome a number of problems.”

I had a very stressful pregnancy and a fairly traumatic birth. The postnatal care was very thorough and included debriefs on all the problems I experienced. Follow-up care for both my daughter and me was excellent and really helped me recover mentally as well as physically. We had a very positive experience.

“I used an NHS service called One2One Midwives which is only available in selected areas. It made a massive difference and I felt totally supported when I had my unexpected home birth.”

“The perinatal mental health nurse managed to get me a single room so my husband could stay and we got some peace. Without this I think my mental health would have been very badly affected and my answers [to the survey] very different. I was very lucky to have her advocate for me.”

“I just wanted to sing the praises of the staff in Wycombe Birth Centre. A couple of days post-birth I was in a real state with breastfeeding. I was knackered, sleep deprived, emotional, and I could not get my baby to feed. I phoned the birth centre sobbing and they invited me straight in. They were FANTASTIC. They took me into the midwives' lounge rather than some clinical side room, calmed me down, and offered practical help to get baby latched and feeding well. I'm sure it's pretty run of the mill stuff to them and they deal with it daily, but for them to show such gentle patience and kindness to me when I was at my most vulnerable has stuck with me. My little boy is two now but that evening is fresh in my mind and I will always, always be grateful that the support was there when I really needed it.”

“St. Michael's Hospital in Bristol was outstanding. Every aspect of my care was so compassionate and attentive it still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. I am beyond grateful.”

“I was at University College Hospital and it was amazing.”

“We are lucky enough to have University Hospital Wales as our local hospital. We had our own room after I had given birth, with a double bed and ensuite shower. My husband could stay the whole time. We couldn't fault it.”

“I had a homebirth with the fantastic Rainbow team attached to St George's. They are amazing midwives providing a really personal service. I feel really lucky to have had such a great experience.”

“I had a fantastic experience at Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells – single rooms, very quiet.”

Mumsnetters on… being looked after when your baby is in intensive care

“The main thing I noticed was how badly joined up everything was. My baby was unexpectedly in NICU. None of the midwives on the postnatal ward even mentioned expressing until a good 12 hours after I gave birth. There was a specialist breastfeeding midwife on NICU but I didn't find out about her until I had an absolute meltdown after a few days. NICU is totally geared up to look after the babies and midwives are all about direct breastfeeding, so nobody told me I needed to express regularly, overnight etc until several days after my baby was born. I had real problems with my supply as a result, because I fell between the gaps.”

Postnatal care for me was almost non-existent. The care for my very premature baby was second to none.

“I was pretty much ignored on the postnatal ward. Fair enough, I was OK, but I was 24 with a baby in NICU and I was alone all day. Some of the staff were really in the wrong job.”

Mumsnetters on… getting help with breastfeeding

“Undiagnosed tongue tie made breastfeeding difficult. I got myself discharged early to get breastfeeding support but then ended up back in hospital with a bleed.”

We were readmitted on day three and got specialist infant feeding support. It's the only reason I was able to breastfeed successfully. Every mum who wants to breastfeed should get this level of support – something shouldn't have to go wrong first.

“I ended up supporting other mothers to establish breastfeeding because midwives did not have the time. It's so sad to see people choose to bottle feed just so they can go home.”

“One maternity care assistant told me off for not feeding the baby often enough. I was trying, but she wouldn't latch due to too much mucus after a traumatic labour and EMCS. Another maternity care assistant spent ages helping me express into a syringe and subsequently encouraging the baby to latch. Without him, I don't think breastfeeding would have worked out, despite desperately wanting to do it.”

“I wish more support had been freely available, rather than there being an expectation that I ask for it.”

Mumsnetters on… formula feeding

“I was made to feel bad/guilty about my decision to stop breastfeeding. More needs to be done to support women in their decisions and not make them feel bad at the most difficult time of their lives.”

“There's an important difference between supporting mothers to breastfeed, and pressurising them into it.”

Mumsnetters on… understaffing

“Despite having a straightforward labour, I was kept on the ward for hours because there were not enough staff to do the paperwork to discharge me. In the end they only discharged me because we packed up and started to leave without being discharged (other couples around us were doing the same thing).”

When my health reached crisis point the staff were all excellent and saved my life, but I got to the point where I was in danger because the staff were overstretched. I was ignored and isolated and left to deteriorate.

“Some staff on the postnatal ward really lacked empathy – possibly due to burnout from being chronically short-staffed. Some were excellent.”

“My discharge from hospital was delayed by a whole day purely by a lack of midwives to do the necessary checks and paperwork.”

Mumsnetters on… the postnatal ward

“The atmosphere on the ward was abhorrent. My hospital midwife was amazing though – she deserves a medal!”

“The post-op ward was fantastic and the midwives there deserve every praise. Then I was put on the communal postnatal ward, which was like a disaster zone.”

“Other women and their families can be awful! Bringing takeaways onto the ward and being visited by every last family member and all their badly behaved or poorly children. The main problems I had in hospital were caused by other patients being inconsiderate.”

It was beyond awful. It still upsets me over a year later, and has been the biggest influence on my decision not to have any more children.

“The ward was very uncomfortable. It was impossible to sleep, and getting in and out of the high bed to deal with my baby was very difficult due to a painful tear and large blood loss. I was quite stressed by my experience, way more so than giving birth!”

“It was like hell – it was really overcrowded. My notes were lost and the doctors quizzed me about personal medical information in full hearing of everyone else on the ward. The couple opposite fought all day and night.”

“I wasn't allowed any privacy despite visitors being everywhere at all hours. I was trying to establish breastfeeding but was not allowed to close the curtains around my bed – I was actually told off about this even when I explained why.”

“The noise from an arguing couple in the bay next to me was loud, constant and ran all night – I don't understand why someone didn't tell them to keep the noise down!”

“The worst part for me was the woman chatting on her phone in the bed opposite while I was trying to get some sleep after three nights in labour. Plus the bathroom looked like an abattoir.”

“It wasn't that care was poor (although at times it was), it was that the ward environment was a totally unsuitable place to recover from birth and bond with a new baby.”

“It was a nightmare of lights, noise, trolleys, staff talking, people opening my curtains looking for things, and people scraping chairs across the floor.”

“It is a bad start to parenthood for many.”

Mumsnetters on… the problem in a nutshell

“I had babies in 2011, 2013 and 2015: postnatal care is awful. It's not the midwives' fault, but the wards are hideously understaffed, there is no specialist care for unusual situations (babies in NICU for example), no help and little support/compassion. Mothers are unable to adequately rest and recover from the birth in hospital, which is why after giving birth to my third child I discharged myself after three hours. Recovery at home is easier, but useless for first time mums who need extra help and/ or mums and babies with additional issues. The NHS needs more midwives and better postnatal wards that are fit for purpose (ie private rooms). Until then women will continue to suffer and breastfeeding rates will continue to be low.”

Mumsnetters on… why they don't complain

“It was my first child. There was a catalogue of failings. I was advised to make a formal complaint, but at what point with a newborn do you have the time or energy to do that?”