A-Z

Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Transfer from critical care

Key Learning Points
  • Women who have suffered a near miss feel different from other new mothers. They feel more supported when information about their condition has been handed over between staff and the team in the new setting show they are fully aware of what they have experienced.
  • Transfer, from intensive care, while a positive step, can be difficult. Although there appears no idea solution to step-down care:               

                - women who go to a high dependency area alongside a labour ward find this helpful

                - if women are in high dependency care for an extended period, policies which allow

                  visits from the wider family, e.g. grandparents, are appreciated

  • Similarly, women can find transfer to the postnatal ward challenging:

               - if possible, a side-room is the most comfortable place for women who have

                 experienced a near-miss to be cared for

               - if side–rooms are not available, a clear explanation of the reason for this is helpful

               - some women will experience significant problems with caring for themselves and

                 their new baby in a side-room and will need extra help 

  • Personal support and empathy from individual staff members makes a real difference to how women cope with transfer and recovery.
Once women start to recover from their life-threatening condition – either from surgery or some time in high dependency or intensive care units – they will need to be transferred to less acute care. The women we interviewed told us that this transfer, while being a positive step towards getting well, and going home, was often very difficult for them, the beginning of a new battle.
 

After being in intensive care with septicaemia (blood poisoning) for several days Anna felt that...

After being in intensive care with septicaemia (blood poisoning) for several days Anna felt that...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 21
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And then I was moved, that day I was moved onto the normal ward, and, I’m not going to lie. It was hard. It was like my family’s fight was over, because I was awake. But my fight had only just begun because not only did I have a new born baby, a three year old at home, I also had the fact now that I can’t have any more children. Accepting that you know, I’m not invincible, I nearly died. Also the fact that I couldn’t even move, because my muscles had deteriorated completely. I couldn’t even press the buzzer to buzz a nurse, I was that weak. So it was like I had to start from the beginning. 
 
My body was swollen. I had gone up to like thirteen stone and I’m only sort of eight stone normally. So I put on all this weight, and my face was puffy, and I couldn’t do anything. So that was when it really started for me you know, and I was being fed by a tube and a lot of challenges in hospital. You know, there’s a lot of things that I couldn’t do for myself that they, the nurses had to do. And degrading, you know, when you’re ill you just kind of go, just please help me, you know. But as you get better you kind of feel like, I want to start doing something for myself, but I can’t. Like when you’re feeling better, but you can’t feel that you can do it, it becomes a bit more like, you feel a bit more embarrassed and stuff. 
 
Women who have suffered a near miss feel different from other new mothers.  “When you are a woman who has given birth, but has these other complications its like you are an anomaly. You don’t fit anywhere in the system.” (Paula). They often felt that once they were transferred there was little appreciation of what they had been through during delivery.
 
Where
When they no longer need intensive care, it was often hard for staff to know where would be an appropriate place to send these women while they recovered enough to be able to go home. Some were sent to post-natal wards, others to labour wards. Women experienced problems with both, suggesting that there was not necessarily one approach that was best for everyone.
 

Paula felt that the hospital struggled to know where to put her so she could receive the care she...

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Paula felt that the hospital struggled to know where to put her so she could receive the care she...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 46
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I think that...I think all along the whole experience… although there was some excellent medical care that we had and, you know, clearly I wouldn’t be standing here today had I not had that. Certainly the immediate care in the theatre that I had saved my life. The decisions they made, you know, were the right ones. But I just feel that when you’re a woman who’s given birth, but has these other complications it’s like you’re an anomaly. You don’t fit anywhere within the system. 
 
So I felt like a bit initially we were just being moved from pillar to post. Not in a nasty way, but just because there was no place for us to fit. So there was no setting whereby I could be given the care I needed, yet with the ability to see my new baby. And I know that it’s a bit like, perhaps it’s too much to expect that every setting could have that, because these events are rare. I don’t know, I just feel like there, there should have been a better way of it being resolved you know. 
 
I mean mine perhaps was very unusual and very extreme. But I bet that there’s other women who have similar, perhaps lower level complications who similarly probably feel like a fish out of water, because you don’t fit on maternity, you can’t go onto a normal medical ward and see your baby. So it’s like you’re in desperate need of medical support, but you’re also in desperate need to be able to bond with your child.
 
Yes.
 
And those two things just didn’t fit in the system, you know, despite us being in potentially one of the best hospitals in the country.
 
Yes.
 
You know, it wasn’t that we were somehow in an inferior setting. Had I been in an inferior setting I would have died. I know that. You know, I was in one of the best places. But even despite that, I did get the medical care I needed, but it was compromised, my mental health was compromised, because I couldn’t spend enough time, you know, with my new baby. So I do feel that that side of it. I think what I felt was that once the medical teams had taken over trying to deal with my problems, that you know, whatever it was they were trying to diagnose, I felt that the maternity lot just step back.

 

 

After being in intensive care for several days, Karen was transferred to the labour ward.

After being in intensive care for several days, Karen was transferred to the labour ward.

Age at interview: 44
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 42
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I had a night in labour ward. And that was quite hard because there was a woman in the next room giving birth. So there was a lot of howling and screaming and that sort of thing. Yes. It was hard. I say it was at hard, but at one point, when maybe her husband was sort of cheering her up. “Go on girl, you can do it.” 
 
That’s right, yes, I spent the Saturday night and then went into the maternity unit on the Sunday. At first, I mean one of the reasons why I had to stay is why I was in the labour ward was because they didn’t have enough room to beam me up into the labour unit. And originally they wanted to put me in a room with about six other women, five or six other women. And I just said, “No chance.” I just didn’t want anybody asking me, you know, why are you in here, that would have just been too traumatic, to go into that detail with some people that I didn’t know. I mean as it was I was only really happy for my husband and my son to come and visit me. Really at that point I didn’t want to see anybody else. Or talk to anybody else. Because you kind of come to terms with it yourself.

 

 

Kerry had grade 4 placenta praevia (completely covering the cervix/birth canal) and delivered her...

Kerry had grade 4 placenta praevia (completely covering the cervix/birth canal) and delivered her...

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 25
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And then I was transferred up onto the main ward. And they did put me on the ward. Obviously into a room where, I think there three women with just like healthy babies and I was up all night traumatised and then listening to them with their babies. I just, it was so overwhelming, I just wanted to go home. I wanted to cry. And I did pester the doctors to let me home. I just wanted, I can’t. The baby I’d been told several times throughout the night, he’d stopped breathing, he’d been ventilated. They found an infection, a bleed on the brain. It was just a heart murmur that they wasn’t sure about how bad it was. I just remember the list was just ongoing and I thought, and they did tell you to expect the worst. He was really premature. And I’m in a room with three babies. I couldn’t, I was annoyed at that point. I was so annoyed at that point, I was like what if someone comes up now and tells me my baby’s died and then you’ve put me in here, and there’s three women. Every corner I turned was new born babies. I felt I was really angered by that. I did think that was wrong. And I was told it was because of bed spaces.

 

When Kate (who had HELLP syndrome) was moved onto a normal ward she found it very difficult. She...

When Kate (who had HELLP syndrome) was moved onto a normal ward she found it very difficult. She...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 34
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Well I came out of my room. I was moved out of my room to the normal ward, and that was hideous. It seemed to me that I was in the bed furthest away from the toilets. It took me a long time to get there. I was walking stooped over. I mean I suppose that was the Caesarean, but I think because I was so swollen and in such great deal of pain, nobody else seemed to look like me anyway, and there were lots of whinging mothers who didn’t want to stay in for the night. And normally I’m quite a sociable person, but I didn’t want to talk to these mothers. It was annoying that they were all fine, they had their tea and toast and they were going to go home.
 
But my blood pressure was still too high. They wanted me to have twelve hours of normal blood pressure. But I think I was so stressed that I think three out of four were fine, and it was that fourth one that let me down. I would worry so much so of course it wouldn’t go down. So I was on Clexane injections to stop me clotting. I wasn’t on any pain medication. I think it was just paracetamol. But the pain did kick in but in a way I wanted that pain, so that when the pain stopped, I would know that I was feeling better. And I didn’t tell the doctor this until about three days later. And she said, “You know, there’s no point being a hero about it, you can have some pain relief.” But it made me feel… I don’t know, it was something to concentrate on I suppose, so I didn’t have to think too much.
 
But I didn’t get any sleep because there was constant noise. There wasn’t the machinery beeping any more, but it was the vacuuming and the trolleys and the babies crying and I just wanted to go home. And the food was dreadful. It was just all microwave food and I just wanted some fruit or something decent to eat, without it coming out of a packet. And I just kept asking, when can I go home? 
 
So I found out that I’d had what’s called HELLP syndrome. I knew nothing about it. And I found out my kidneys and my liver had been affected and well, I’ve never really been in a hospital before. Never been unwell, so it was just a real shock to the system.
 
So not only was I coping with by the way you have a baby, but also you’ve had a near death experience. So after eight days, the doctor finally said, “Right, why are you still here?” And I said, “I don’t know. I keep asking why I’m still here.” And he said, “No wonder your blood pressure’s high. You need to go home.” And I just burst out crying. You know, this animal sound, because I was just so relieved and so that was at midday and I called my partner. And said, “Right, come and get me.” 

 

 
Some women were offered a single room to give them space and quiet to recover from their trauma. Most women appreciated the privacy.
 

Helen was initially put in a 4-bed ward, but found this upsetting as her son was in the neonatal...

Helen was initially put in a 4-bed ward, but found this upsetting as her son was in the neonatal...

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 31
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And then the next day, the ward, the four bed ward was completely full, and I can remember being back there at some point in the afternoon and I could hear these normal babies you know, crying and these mothers having [laughs] you know, normal Mother worries, you know, about oh shall I change his nappy now, or do I use wipes? What do I? And I was just lying there think, oh it’s not fair, I don’t have my baby, you have yours, and that was really hard. And fortunately the staff had obviously had experience of that before and they put me in a side room. So I went back up to the neonatal unit at the some point in the afternoon. And when I came they were like, we’ve got you a side room quietly move your stuff, let’s go, kind of thing. Which was great, because I think having a night of being woken up by other people’s babies, when mine wasn’t there would have been horrible. Oh it would have been awful. So I got a side room.
 
And also the other good thing was it was really hot and stuffy in there, the heating always felt too hot, and so in my own room, I could open all the windows [laughs]. I was much happier and much more comfortable in there and yes, I knew I’d got to stay in that for the rest of the time. Which was great.
 
So yes, and I think yes, the staff were, as I say I think they were quite sensitive to the fact that it would have been really harsh, you know, and tried to do the best that they could to, to alleviate that, you know, as much as possible in a busy ward and all the rest of it. Yes, and they were nice, you know, we had good chats all the time. I guess because I was a physio and I had some understanding of the NHS, you know, we could moan about difficult things in the NHS together or whatever, so yes, I always felt treated like I was an adult having a conversation and not a real patient that needed to be patronised or anything like that. So that was nice, yes.
 
 

Natalie was transferred to a single room after her post-partum haemorrhage. She was grateful for...

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Natalie was transferred to a single room after her post-partum haemorrhage. She was grateful for...

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
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I don’t think so really. I really don’t think so. I was very happy with the way I was treated. I think had I been in a general ward in the post natal with six other women in a bay I would probably feel very differently. I think I was very, very fortunate to have had a private room. And I felt for me that was important to allow me the space to recover. So if I did want to have a weep, and I think I’m fairly certain now that I must have wept that first night for half the night. Looking back I’m fairly certainly I did. And I don’t know if I would have felt able to do that in a ward full of other women and I think that was very important for me to grieve the labour that I didn’t have, if that makes sense. Although I had a great labour. It was very quick, it was over and done with. I wouldn’t say the pain was unbearable. You know, all of that, it didn’t go as I imagined. For the end I think you have to grieve. You have to go through that process of getting over that. And I think the private room sort of allowed me to do that in the first 24, 48 hours because I was in there two nights and I managed. I was luckily enough I kicked off, they tried to kick me out the second night and I kicked off because the only reason, one of the reasons I’d made the decision to stay was on the condition I could keep in the room. And then at 8 o’clock that night they tried to move me out. Luckily I kept it. If that had happened if I’d been in a general ward I think I probably would have felt very differently and how the care, how I would have liked the care to have changed was if women are having these experiences that are traumatic then they should be afforded the privacy to recover in peace really. But obviously constraints, medical, you know, funding constraints don’t always make that possible, but it’s nice to put that down as a wish. 

Others found being in a room of their own very isolating, and felt that it was hard to get the attention of staff when they needed it. Lisa felt that staff were rushed off their feet and not that interested. “I was the girl who had been through that ‘awful incident’. I was ‘her in there’ and people would breeze in, do something and breeze out again. They wouldn’t want to speak to me because they didn’t want to talk about it, so I was left on my own for most of it.”
 

After her haemorrhage, Amy was transferred to her own room, which in hindsight was a mistake. She...

After her haemorrhage, Amy was transferred to her own room, which in hindsight was a mistake. She...

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
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Amy' They transferred me into a room, which in hindsight was a mistake, because I couldn’t, I mean I still had loads of various things…
 
Sally' Attached to you.
 
Amy' Attached to me, and I just wasn’t well enough to be… You know, obviously I couldn’t get out of bed, and you couldn’t stay.
 
Sally' They wouldn’t let me stay.
 
Amy' I had my own room but basically you went home, was it about 8 o’clock at night.
 
Sally' About 9 o’clock. You were so desperate to see your Mum and Dad though that you kind of traded staying with the support just so you could see your Mum and Dad.
 
Amy' Yes. And so it meant that even though obviously I had the bell and stuff and I could ring the bell. I was in a room on my own and no one really comes in, you know, unless they you ring the bell, and they come in to do their sort of checks every so often. Every sort of, I don’t know, few hours or something, but it kind of felt very. And once you went home I was absolutely terrified. I thought oh my God I’ve got this baby that I don’t even feel I know.
 
Sally' Hm.
 
Amy' Next to me and I couldn’t really lift her out the cot.
 
Sally' You couldn’t get her out the cot could you?
 
Amy' And I remember the next morning. Because overnight I obviously kind of managed to get her up and feed her, because I’d managed to start breast feeding a bit and the next morning I remember the nurses, the nursery nurse coming in, who sort of more deals with the babies, and saying, “Well she hasn’t been changed.” And she hasn’t been this. And feeling like great, now I’m useless at this as well. But I couldn’t, you know. I know I probably should have just rung the bell in the night and said, “Can you come and change her.” But I don’t know it was probably me. I’m a bit. I don’t like to kind of say to people.
 
Sally' Well also it’s our first baby.
 
Amy' Had stayed on the high dependency unit…
 
Sally' They would have done all of that.
 
Amy' They’d have done all of that and they would have you know, helped to get her out and put her on me so I could feed her and all that sort of stuff. And so I felt that there was no bond. I just felt like there was just this baby that’s you know, and obviously when they’re tiny she was sleeping a lot, and you know, she was just sort of…. I don’t know, it was just…
 
Sally' Yes, and you just don’t know do you. You don’t know until you change them two times, you know, when they’re that age. You know, until some kind of say or someone like your Mum or my Mum says. “Leave that, you know, or the nursery do those things.”
 
Support
Women who are recovering from a near miss are struggling both with their physical recovery, and becoming a new mum, sometimes for the first time. As Paula said, “I understood completely that their priority was, you know, I had almost died and their priority was to work out what the long term impact of that was. I understood that from a clinical point of view. But I did feel that there was this kind of gulf of understanding for, as well as being a patient with these medical needs, I was also a new Mum.”
 
Positive experiences of support
Some women had a positive experience of their transfer to another part of the hospital. Alice was in intensive care after she had amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). She was transferred to her own room where felt the care she received was very good.
 

Once she came out of intensive care, Alison T was put in her own room where she was constantly...

Once she came out of intensive care, Alison T was put in her own room where she was constantly...

Age at interview: 44
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 42
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And then from there down to the labour ward. That must have been quite a big transition?
 
I was glad to get out of the Intensive Care. It was, I found it very, very scary, because it’s so different to a normal ward. Very, very ill patients in there. And it’s quite upsetting. But one, I, one nice memory I’ve got, the morning, I think it was the Saturday morning I was taken out of there, it was one of the staff’s birthday and somebody came in with a tray of buns, and I remember having a bit of a grin on my face.
 
So in the labour ward, were you on a general ward? In with other women or were you by yourself?
 
I was my own, I was in a room on my own.
 
Okay, yes. And how was that care in comparison to the Intensive Care?
 
Oh very, very good. Very good. They were constantly monitoring me. Again I think it was fifteen minutes observations for days. Just constantly. I had two people taking me to the toilet. I had two members of staff showering me. My first shower. That was amazing. So you know, constantly. I even had staff come… because I knew them all very well by… because I’d already been in there at Christmas with the PE’s. I’d got quite a friendship with a lot of them and quite often they would just come and sit with me and we’d talk just chat. So you know, formed some very good bonds in there with the staff.
 
And what, how long were you in the labour ward for? How much longer did you have to stay in hospital?
 
Another week. I was in there another week.
 
Okay.
 
And then they were gradually bringing the baby to me. My husband was splitting his time, coming to see me and then going… he took over with the feeds and was feeding the baby, going back there. So he was constantly going backwards and forwards. And then when the baby was allowed to come and see me, sort of more and more often which was lovely, and then after a few days I was, he put me in a wheelchair and took me into where she was. And I was able to go in there.
 
 

Alison had a hysterectomy after her first baby was born. She was discharged from intensive care...

Alison had a hysterectomy after her first baby was born. She was discharged from intensive care...

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
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So they took me, from Intensive Care they took me to the labour, the labour suite, because it was more one to one care on the labour suite. So they said that’s, I needed my own midwife effectively and so we both stayed there. 
 
Yes, so we were both. We had obviously a room here that we both stayed in. Which was nice that we could both be there really rather than separated again.
 
And how long were you in that room for? How long did you stay in the labour ward?
 
I was in, I was in the labour suite until, for two days. Or yes, kind of a day and a half. So I went there on the Monday, Monday afternoon, and I was there until the Wednesday morning. And they transferred me up to the maternity ward after that. Once they’d got me, they got me out of bed on the Wednesday and I was able to walk a little, shuffle actually, a little way, and then they transferred me up to the maternity ward.
 
And were you able to lift your baby at that point, or was it too painful to lift him?
 
No, I was told I shouldn’t lift him until he was six weeks old. Nothing heavier than a litre of water for six weeks apparently. And given that he was heavier than a litre of water when he was born, that was quite difficult [laughs]. And I had to have him passed to me if I wanted to hold him or feed him, and that kind of thing, so yes, that was, but those first two days to be honest were, I felt so, weak well for quite a long time I felt really week, but on the Tuesday, so when he was two days old, they gave me three more units of blood because my blood count had dropped quite, quite a lot. And was just feeling really, really exhausted and just not with it at all. So they gave me some more blood, which pepped me up quite a lot, and I felt a lot stronger, I felt a lot stronger, once they’d done that. And obviously over those couple of days [they] were taking various cannulas out and bits, other bits and pieces and [laughs] so you start to feel a little bit more normal. I guess. Once you start getting, getting things taken away and drains taken away and that kind of thing. So that gets a little bit more, a little bit easier to start cuddling babies and getting out bed and things like that, so…
 
 
Some felt that once they had been transferred, staff in the new setting expected too much of them, especially in terms of looking after their newborn, and were unaware of what they had been through. Women still felt weak and overwhelmed.
 

Cara was in intensive care. Once she was transferred she was expected to get up and get on with...

Cara was in intensive care. Once she was transferred she was expected to get up and get on with...

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
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And what had happened was… So I was taken from my bed in Intensive Care which is a very cosy place to be. You’re very well looked after and there’s all the latest equipment, to suddenly no TV, my bed didn’t sit up with the press of a button. I had the catheter removed that was just like, I had the catheter removed. So I hadn’t been on my feet for a week and then I was just expected to get up and get on with it. When I say expected to get up and get on with it, I mean looked after baby. All on my own.
 
Now even a new mother has her husband for support the first night home. I was totally alone, and this midwife didn’t really spot that at all. You know, the first time I went to the toilet I shuffled, also you know, I’d had a Caesarean. Then I’d had, been cut open again and had a major abdominal surgery, plus I was incredibly weak from all the blood loss and so on. And I sort of shuffled off to the toilet. She sort of came running with a jug of water. Oh pour this to stop the stinging. I said, “I had a Caesarean.” “Oh yes, of course silly me, yes, okay, yes okay.”
 
And then like, you know, I noticed these cribs that attach onto the side of the bed, the baby can co-sleep and I commented on, “That looks good.” “Oh they’re for our Caesarean patients.” “That would be quite nice for me, because I’m not really very mobile.” I don’t think I got one. I think I had a… Anyway.
 
And then through the night, I actually had what I kind of look back on, I felt like I was in a survival mode through that first night because I was left on my own with the baby. Now bearing in mind the baby had been looked after by the nurses at night. This is my first night out of intensive care. And my first night with the baby, all on my own, with no support whatsoever. In fact no one. So I remember her crying in the middle of the night and me going, “Right she needs a bottle. Now I can do this.” And you know, it’s like getting out of bed, pushing the baby in little thing down the hall. It was all dark and quiet, no one was there. It was like, a bit abandoned. Right I know there’s a place to get hot water and I’m getting the hot water and I’m going back to the bed. And it was just, and then I accomplished it, the baby was fed and the baby went down again. 
 
I mean just preposterous really when you, when you think about it, to not have someone on hand and, or even be left in that position really. And I remember thinking actually when I left the hospital, if I win the lottery I think there should be a suite that allows fathers to stay over in very difficult circumstances. Because no one should be expected to do that alone. You, you know you would have support, even as a normal Mother. 
 
 

After her uterine rupture (a tear opening the womb directly into the abdominal cavity), Debbie...

After her uterine rupture (a tear opening the womb directly into the abdominal cavity), Debbie...

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
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I spent a couple of days on the labour ward and then went up to maternity, which was a difficult transition, because labour, they did everything for me. I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, I still had a catheter in for a good few days. I wasn’t allowed to eat for two days in case, I think it’s something to do with the bowel. There can be complications because obviously everything’s put back in awkwardly, so they felt there could be a complication with the bowel, so I couldn’t eat and I could only have sips of water. 
 
So they were fantastic, but when I eventually moved up to labour ward, and one of the midwives, and it’s a very unusual case because I remember her saying to me, “They’ve asked me not to take your catheter out. But I don’t understand. You just want to be a normal mummy. Let’s get you up and get you going.” And so she left me to get on with everything at that point. But I remember saying to my husband, “I think they think I’ve just an emergency Caesarean, but it’s been so much more than that. And it’s going to take a long time to get over.” 
 
So I begged to get out as soon as possible. I think they wanted to keep me in a week, but I was only in from the Friday to the Monday. And they let me home on the Monday night, because I felt at home I had my Mum and my husband there staying with me and my other daughter to help me far more than they could in hospital. I was sort of a drain on their resources. 
 
 

Jo’s first baby was born by emergency caesarean after she had a placental abruption (the placenta...

Jo’s first baby was born by emergency caesarean after she had a placental abruption (the placenta...

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
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Yes, and the next day, I just kind of, I just got on with it. I remember the enormity of what had happened just didn’t hit me at all. I just thought, oh well, I had something, something happened yesterday and I just got on with it. And there was a girl opposite in the, the post natal ward said, “Oh is this your second baby?” I said, “No, it’s my first.” She said, “But you seem to know what you’re doing.” 
 
You know, and I just got on with it, but I was just left in a corner and literally I was in a corner and there seemed to be no allowance for the fact that I’d gone through something really horrific. I was, you know, I was routine. I was the same as everybody else. They kept trying to get me to take painkillers. Even though I was quite clear that I’m not in pain. That was then, that was their only concern, “Oh take these paracetamols.” So I was sort of hiding them because I wasn’t in pain. 
 
I wasn’t given. I had about five minutes breast feeding support. Which was pitiful really. No one explained, no one explained anything to me really. They were worried, the physio came round and said, “Oh you know, you must do your pelvic floor exercises.” And I thought, “Well okay.” Yes. I just, it was pretty rough in the hospital actually. Afterwards.
 
I remember one night. I was in for a few nights. I pressed the buzzer, which was the first time I pressed the buzzer and I don’t know whether she was a midwife or a midwifery assistant came through and just yanked the curtain back, “What’s the matter?” And I can’t remember what the problem was, but you know, the baby was crying and I was quite distressed and I knew, my son wasn’t, he wasn’t a happy bunny. There was nothing physically wrong with him I think, other than being starving because I was trying to feed him. And obviously my body’s priority at that time was not lactation. It was, you’ve just lost an awful lot of blood and had a bit of a trauma so breast feeding’s not going to be happening very well. But I was so adamant that I wanted to feed him myself. They just, the hospital just said, “You can give him 4 ml if you want.” And that was it. They were happy just to shove a bottle in my hand, but not actually sit down with me and say, you know, we understand you want to try, but realistically when you’ve had something that dramatic happen, it’s going to, might take a bit longer and that kind of thing. 
 
So I was desperate to get out of the hospital. I felt I was getting no support there at all. And then when I went home, I didn’t really get any support from the community midwife was concerned. I just got a lot of, “Oh you’ve been very lucky. You’ve been very lucky.” And that was it really.
 
Others felt that there was a lack of support. Lisa was recovering from a hysterectomy and was unable to lift her baby. Staff were very busy, “And I’d have to sit there looking at her in the crib, and couldn’t pick her up.” Belinda had appendicitis and then a caesarean section to deliver her daughter at 34 weeks. “I do remember the NICU staff being quite nasty about the fact that I never saw the baby, but the problem was I couldn’t actually wheel myself up to another part of the hospital to go and see the baby.”
 
Several women were upset by the inflexibility of visiting arrangements after their near miss. Amy was upset that her parents were not allowed in to see her after her post-partum haemorrhage while she was on the high-dependency unit. She was desperate to see them so pushed to be transferred to another ward, “which in hindsight was a mistake….I think that is one of the biggest things that they’re just not geared up to do.” 
 

Kate was in hospital for over a week, but was allowed no visitors other than her partner. Her...

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Kate was in hospital for over a week, but was allowed no visitors other than her partner. Her...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 34
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Unfortunately hospital policy is that no visitors are allowed, apart from your birthing partner. I didn’t know this. And my parents turned up at my flat and they tried to call, and I said, “I’m really sorry, you won’t be able to come and see me.” And they had to go home again, and they live a couple of hours away, so it was a real wasted journey.
 
And I thought, okay, I’m not that special, but surely, after all that I’ve been through, can’t you just make an exception. You know, I don’t need my Mum, I’m a big girl now, but it would have been nice. So four friends tried to visit as well. And they were all turned away. 

 

 

Mandy felt incredibly well supported while still in intensive care but found being transferred to...

Mandy felt incredibly well supported while still in intensive care but found being transferred to...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 28
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The hardest thing for me in terms of recovery is I think it was the support. Postnatally what happened was, when I woke up or you know, out of sedation five days after I was very pleased that [husband] had the opportunity to look after our son, so he could feed the baby. [Son] was kept at special care unit, even though he didn’t need it. He was a very health six twelve, so he was fine. So I think from that point of view they were extremely supportive and I think because the case was quite well we were treated very, we felt very special. So that was lovely and [husband] was very supported. But literally as I sort of woke up and they thought oh you’re fine now. It was sort of straight over to post natal ward. 
 
Which I don’t know what other hospitals are like, but [hospital’s] have improved since then thankfully. But it was a very isolating moment. Because I was obviously asleep or sedated during the sort of baby blue period, I don’t think it kicked in until later on. So I remember still being in the post natal ward and getting so distressed, crying all the rest of it and wanting to go home. That was probably the hardest bit and then it felt like nobody was listening. 
 
So suddenly the care that was all there before and I expect, you know, when you’ve, when people have used sort of IVF and they have had this special treatment, suddenly you’re, you’re with everybody else and you’re still recovering still with stitches toilets like you know, five doors down the corridor that was very difficult and isolated. So not in a bay with other women which I might have actually preferred, but they obviously thought well on you’re on your own so that you can recover and you know. But I did feel very lonely and my husband was the only person that came to visit.
 
And again in hindsight because I’d requested that I didn’t want to see anybody. It was just as well to be, you know. But in hindsight it would have been nice for people to come. My family don’t live in locally you know, they’re in Gloucester, so you know, the minute I was fine they had to go back, go to work, all that sort of thing. So that was really, really lonely. 
 
I got so upset that they did discharge me sooner [laughs]. I think their idea was to keep me until my liver functions were back to normal, but because they were so sky high, I could have been in there, you know, it felt like it could have been weeks. So my husband had a chat with them and he said, “Look you know, if there’s anything wrong I will bring her to the hospital, you know, I will bring her to hospital for blood tests every day if that’s what’s necessary.” So that was really helpful.
 
 

Farkhanda's baby was a week old, and she was still in the high dependency. She was supported by...

Farkhanda's baby was a week old, and she was still in the high dependency. She was supported by...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 34
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So I had ticked off all my boxes now and I was thinking I need to take the baby off of me because I’ve started to feel unwell, and immediately my health deteriorated, inside SCUBU I just became unwell. 
 
I remember the pain just went, shot up really high, and I remember the porter ringing the ward, high dependency and he said, “I’m bringing her up. I’m going to be a few minutes. I’m coming as fast as I can. You need her morphine ready as I get there.” And I was thinking oh I can’t wait to get to my bed.
 
My midwife was so good, they were waiting for me outside labour room with my morphine shots and as soon as I got there, I could see them from the lift, they came running to the lift, game me the morphine shots because they were told the pain levels to expect, and I was thinking how caring is that? You didn’t have to come all the way out of your ward to the lift to give me pain relief. But that’s the kind of people they were. They were so… they went beyond their duty to care for somebody. Even though some of them clearly weren’t trained for what I went through. They still you know.

 

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