This week we have followed BBC’s Alex Jones and her brave team of mothers. More information on their exploits is available here Most noteworthy is that whilst the five ladies are pursuing numerous physical challenges and facing their own fears for a whole week; these feats in no way come close to the daily challenges faced by mothers across the land each and every day. The issue of maternal health and mental health remains a major issue and challenge in the UK today.
National Maternity Review
In 2015 the NHS launched a review of maternity services chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege who is quoted as saying,
“To be among the best in the world, we need to put women, babies and their families at the centre of their care. It is so important that they are supported through what can be a wonderful and life-changing experience. Women have told us they want to be given genuine choices and have the same person looking after them throughout their care. We must ensure that all care is as safe as the best and we need to break down boundaries and work together to reduce the variation in the quality of services and provide a good experience for all women.” Read more here.
In addition the review noted that in the ten years from 2003 to 2013 stillbirth and neonatal mortality fell by 20%. There there was also a reduction in maternal mortality. However, despite this it was still found that there were differences in care provided across the country. In addition much more could be done to improve safety and to reduce still births. The full report is available here. The report suggested several improvements, including factors such as:
- Each woman should have a personalised care plan which reflects her preferences and own health needs;
- There should be continuity of care and the ability to form relationships with health professionals such as midwives;
- Postnatal care should be properly resourced with access to their midwife after having the baby . There should be designated clinics for those requiring further follow-ups;
- Safer care to help teams to work together including multiple professional disciplines; and
- Better mental healthcare pre and post birth for women. The full list of recommendations is available here.
Here at Corries Solicitors our experience of maternity claims demonstrates to us that there are three main areas of concern:
- Injuries to mothers;
- Injuries to babies; and
- Maternal mental health issues.
Injuries to mother & baby
Baroness Cumberlege focusses positively on what a wonderful experience that childbirth can be. However she also credits that it is a life-changing experience. In our experience it is not always in a good way. One of the ladies on the challenges with Alex Jones is Amal. She felt overwhelmed and suffered mentally. In addtion she also suffered pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence and painful sex (read her story here).
Her story echoed others with common maternal injuries include excessive bleeding, vaginal and perineal tearing, infections and pelvic floor injuries.
In the news this week is the story of a couple whose son died when a caesarian section was delayed leading to still birth (here). This is an extreme example but sadly there are many others with injuries caused to babies such as cerebral palsy, facial palsy, infections and spinal cord injuries amongst others.
What Can Help?
The most common cause of injuries to mum or baby in our experience is a lack of continuity of care. It is very important that women have the same healthcare team throughout their pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth is different for each woman and between each pregnancy. It is vitally important that women are seen by the same healthcare team. They can monitor the changes and developments throughout the pregnancy, build a rapport with the woman and communicate.
Furthermore, communication between different teams and different medical professions is vital. Often we find that there is a disjoint between the care provided before childbirth and the care given during labour. It is important that the professionals in the community also discuss matters with the doctors and midwives in the hospital.
Finally, listening to mothers. ,Each woman knows her own body and when things don’t feel right it is important that the medical professionals listen to the patients.
Maternal Mental Health – Everybody’s Business
The work of Alex Jones and her group of ladies has helped to bring maternal mental health to the forefront of everybody’s mind. That is fine for this week but it should be considered more often. One of the participants, Jodi, urges women to talk about their issues and to seek help,
“I want to tell those mums suffering in silence to reach out – tell your health visitor, tell your midwife, tell a friend, tell the postman! Start to normalise the feelings and have some comfort; allow help to come.”. (article here).
It is true that many of the feelings and emotions women feel around childbirth are normal and discussing these may help these women. Most of all women tell us people do not listen.
Our personal experience
Discussing matters amongst ourselves in the office today, we empathise greatly with pregnant women and those who have given birth. In our own experiences, we have found many aspects of childbirth difficult. Often the feeling of not being in control of our own bodies or what has been happening around us has caused great anxiety. Many of us ourselves admit we have pretended that we are ‘ok’ because we do not want to say we are not. The stress caused by the on-going juggling of carving out our careers whilst having a baby and then bringing up children can be overwhelming. Whilst we have never faced a catastropic injury to ourselves or our children we recognise that keeping positive with good mental health is often very hard.
The Maternal Health Alliance have launched a new campaign stressing that this is everybody’s business and we should all ACT here. They advocate for greater Accountability (A), Community (C) mental health services and improved Training (T). Here at Corries we agree whole heartedly with the Mental Health Alliance’s ACT campaign.
Maternal mental health is everybody’s business. It is something we must discuss more. Bringing new life into the world is wonderful but it comes with its own struggles and difficulties. Therefore let us not forget them or sweep them under the carpet.
Here to help – Contact us now
In our view ensuring that these each woman has continuity of care, medical professionals who listen to women they are treating is paramount. We believe that this would help reduce and prevent many injuries and fatalities to both mother and baby in the UK.
We have professional expertise in maternal injury cases. Corries are one of the UK’s leading experts in dealing with clinical negligence claims. We have a department run by experienced female solicitors dedicated solely to dealing with women’s issues. You can find out more about the department here.
Having a lawyer with experience is important when you have a claim. If you or your child has suffered because of a delay in treatment, a miscommunication or a failure to listen to you then may be able to make a compensation claim. We understand that injuries (both physical and mental) surrounding childbirth and pregnancy are of a sensitive nature. They can be difficult to discuss. Our team are here to deal with your claim in a confidential, compassionate and professional manner.
We can help put you in touch with support groups who can help.
We pride ourselves in the open and straight forward way we deal with clients. Many of our clients are recommended to us by doctors or other professionals.
If you think that we may be able to help you then call us now on FREEPHONE 0800 881 5103.