Apology over poor maternity services is cold comfort to those of us carrying birth trauma

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An apology of sorts over maternity services ‘postcode lottery’ is cold comfort to those of us carrying birth trauma

Traumatic births stay with you, which is why an apology over the maternity services ‘postcode lottery’ will come as cold comfort to those of us who still carry the mental and physical scars of a childbirth gone wrong.

The half-arsed ‘sorry-not-sorry’ from Health minister Maria Caulfield followed an all-party inquiry, led by Conservative MP Theo Clarke and Labour MP Rosie Duffield. Ms Clarke had pushed for the inquiry after revealing in Parliament how she felt she was going to die after giving birth in 2022, saying there is an unacceptable “postcode lottery on maternity services”.

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The arrival of my first-born was also a traumatic experience which began with being locked out of the maternity ward while in established labour, and being told I’d ‘chosen’ the wrong day to have a baby as they were very busy, and ending in being prepped for surgery and narrowly avoiding a c-section.

I was ignored and under informed - the ‘care’ was so poor that nobody had checked the position of the baby who had rather unhelpfully turned ‘back-to-back’. Had my agonising pain been put down to my daughter’s position, I would have more calmly put up with it, instead, the panic around me made me feel like there was something seriously amiss and when informed the only thing to do was have an epidural, of course I agreed with whatever they said.

What occurred was a world away from the peaceful water birth I had been hoping for and nobody seemed to care.

Apology over poor maternity services is cold comfort to those of us carrying birth trauma. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireApology over poor maternity services is cold comfort to those of us carrying birth trauma. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Apology over poor maternity services is cold comfort to those of us carrying birth trauma. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The health minister ‘apologised’ after a new report concluded that poor care in maternity services is “frequently tolerated as normal”. The parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma is now calling for a national plan to improve maternity care, as it claims women are often “treated as an inconvenience”. I couldn’t agree more.

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Asked on Sky News whether there was an apology to be made to those affected by birth trauma, Ms Caulfield said: “Absolutely. I recognise as women’s health minister that maternity services have not been where we want them to be.” Hardly the full-throated acceptance of the dismal state of play for birthing mothers many of us would have hoped for.

During labour, my husband and I were made to feel our baby was going to die - the psychological damage that can do is enormous yet I was offered zero support from the NHS and we were left alone to deal with that along with a new baby. After years of anxiety, I paid to see a specialist - a former NHS midwife in fact - who dealt specifically with PTSD brought about by childbirth which gave me the opportunity to begin to enjoy life again.

I was able to move on and when pregnant with my second child, decided a home birth was the only way. I simply couldn’t relive what happened the first time around. It was the calm and peaceful birth I had wanted, without so much as a paracetamol for pain relief.

Even then the midwife was patronising and refused to believe the baby was on the way, just 10 minutes before he arrived into the world she was on the phone in the other room trying to line up another midwife to take over from her.

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The day I became a mother should have been one of my fondest memories, instead it was one of the worst days of my life, leaving emotional scars that will last a lifetime. And I am just one of many, many women who suffer the same fate thanks to failing maternity services.

So forgive me if the mealy-mouthed words of a politician, who clearly has no understanding of the damage these experiences inflict, does nothing to ease my sorrow.

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