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Should mothers be made to feel ostracised when concerned about childbirth?


    The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), was criticised by Kirstie Allsopp who suggested that it was “politicised” and “dogmatic” in its advice and failed to prepare mums-to-be for the possibility of birth complications, promoting only natural childbirth. This is a common concern heard by medical negligence solicitors.

    By Kerstin Kubiak

Kirstie Allsopp brought a long standing debate back into the limelight on Twitter by suggesting that the NCT was unrealistic and unfair to mothers by over promoting the perceived need to have a natural vaginal delivery, causing mums who had a caesarean section to feel as if they had somehow failed in their primal duty to give birth naturally. Kirstie suggested that some women are made to feel ostracised and, in some instances, simply not invited back to NCT classes as a result of having a caesarean section. From my own experience helping mothers who have suffered medical negligence, I agree with Kirstie; not all mums have the privilege of choice when it comes to needing a caesarean section and most “c-sections” are only undertaken due to medical need or in the event of fetal distress.  Even in those cases where a caesarean section is not as a result of medical need, surely it should be a woman’s choice?

For many women birth can come with significant complications and difficulties, including risk of birth injury, and the last thing we women need is to feel that we have somehow failed. The Birth Trauma Association (BTA) is a national charity which provides support to women who have suffered from birth trauma or post traumatic stress disorder (‘PTSD’). The group is run by mothers and offers support to other women who have suffered from difficult births and finding it hard to cope with their childbirth experience.

I frequently deal with poor medical care provided to mothers and babies. One example is a case we recently settled for ‘Sarah’ whose name has been changed for confidentiality. Sarah attended a London hospital in labour with her first baby; she complained to the midwife that she had noticed blood when she went to the toilet, but was reassured that there was nothing to worry about. Later in the labour she complained again of bleeding, and the midwife, contrary to practice, made matters worse by performing an internal examination.

A placental abruption (when the placenta separates from its attachment to the womb before the baby is delivered) was eventually suspected but Sarah’s transfer to the delivery ward was delayed by 40 minutes and the doctor then further delayed in his decision to undertake a caesarean section. Sarah was really traumatised by the circumstances of the birth as it was so panicked she was hysterical with fear; afterwards she suffered from flashbacks and depression. In addition, her son had been oxygen deprived due to the abruption and was subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

We successfully sued the hospital responsible for her care and are in the process of obtaining compensation for her son, for having caused his cerebral palsy injury.

A lot of women tell similar stories and many can be found on the website of the Birth Trauma Association. The story of Jenny on the BTA website, who also suffered a placental abruption, demonstrates the distress she suffered as a result of an emergency caesarean section, she states: “The labour and birth left is mark on me which I know will never go away but I have accepted it as something that has shaped the person I am now. I have a gorgeous three year old son to show for it, something I would not change for the world.”

All mothers want is what is best for them and their baby and, in the vast majority of cases they achieve the safe birth of their child, whether by natural vaginal birth or caesarean section. However, if the worst should happen we have a specialist medical negligence team who can help.

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