We asked women what support they received in the community once they were discharged from hospital. Their experiences were varied. Some felt the support from their local GP and health visitors was excellent, but others felt they would have liked more support, after such a traumatic time in hospital.
Examples of good care
Several women felt they had very good support and care after they were discharged from the hospital. Karen had a haemorrhage (heavy uncontrolled bleeding) and hysterectomy. Midwives and health visitors came round to see her and her GP was in touch. ‘I felt like I had a lot of support’. Knowing that support from their GP was available made a real difference to several women.
Lisa said her GP surgery had been ‘amazing’ and ‘I would never have got through this without them.’
Women who had deep vein thrombosis (DVT- the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel) or pulmonary embolism (PE- a blood clot in the main artery of the lung) after birth were in regular contact with their GP as they were managing their anti-coagulant drugs, which they needed to take for several months. Cate saw a lot of the practice nurse at her GP surgery in the few months after her PE as they were managing her warfarin and INR levels (a blood test that monitors the effectiveness of the drug). Clare had a DVT in her leg after the birth of her second child. She would have liked more support at home after she was discharged, as physically managing living in the house with a swollen, painful leg and a newborn and toddler was very difficult. However her GP was very supportive, reassuring her that it was safe to take the drugs while continuing to breastfeed.
Needing more support
However, some women felt that there was very little support for them after they came out of hospital. Several were surprised that their GP seemed to have no idea what had happened to them and thought there was a lack of communication between the hospital and the GP surgery. Alex was in hospital for weeks with grade 4 placenta praevia (placenta covering the cervix). Her GP was very supportive once she knew what had happened, but ‘[the GP] felt slightly put out that she hadn’t been told’. Hana had obstetric cholestasis (a liver problem causing a persistent itch) just before her twins were delivered, and her GP ‘had no idea whatsoever’ what had happened to her. Both Natalie and Michelle would have liked more support from the GP or health visitors after they were discharged.
Rob said their GP was ‘worse than useless’ and as a family they were left with little support (see ‘Father’s /partner’s emotional recovery‘
). Lack of support may affect how women, their partners and their families recover. Sophie and Tom struggled as a family after Sophie had a PE and haemorrhage.
People worried not just about their physical health but about practical issues of caring for a baby while they were recovering from their illness or surgery.
Some women felt there was so much focus on the baby that their own symptoms or support needs got overlooked. Belinda had appendicitis during her pregnancy, and said, ‘You just felt you’d kind of been ignored. The most important thing was the baby.’ Ciara developed septicaemia (blood poisoning) because part of her placenta was left behind in her womb after the birth. She felt it took a long time to diagnose because there was too much focus on the baby, and not enough on the mother.
Sometimes women said they were good at putting on a brave face and this might have contributed to them not getting the support they needed. Joanna said her GP was very supportive but she often put on a front when seeing him, so perhaps he wasn’t aware how much the death of her baby had affected her. Ciara and Michelle were asked to complete the Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale (a set of questions designed to see if a mother may have depression) with their health visitor, but Michelle said it was easy to know what the ‘right’ answers were to make it sound as though she was doing fine, ‘it’s so easy to lie on that, isn’t it?’
Last reviewed April 2016.