NHS Birth trauma counsellors…

Since I started this blog, I have ‘met’ so many women who have been through a traumatic birth. Some women have dealt with it well and are moving on with their lives- after all, when you have children to deal with, what else can you do other than move on or break down? Some women are still coming to terms with what happened to them and that is where I consider myself to be right now. Some women have shared their stories with me and some women find that the details are still too raw and painful to put into words right now. The fact of the matter is that all of these women, myself included, have suffered birth trauma to some extent or another and the sad thing is that hospitals and GPs are still ill equipped to deal with the after-math. Not only that, but hospitals are severely understaffed and under-funded and so the chances of more and more families experiencing a terrifying birth experience does not look set to diminish. I wouldn’t wish those dark days on anyone.

Image source: flickr.com

Many women I’ve spoken to have been telling me that should they have another child, they would like to have a c-section in an effort to avoid a similar situation. I requested an elective section when I fell pregnant with the baby and was subsequnetly talked out of it. I was dismissed. A report on The Guardian online in November 2010 stated that “The NHS is responding to a surge in cases of birth trauma by setting up specialist support services to reduce the rising demand for a caesarean delivery from those who, after a bad experience, are scared to undergo labour again.” Again, I was offered ‘counselling’ after my son was born and I can’t say that I feel enclined to labour again, should I decide to have another baby. The very though fills me with dread.
The ‘counselling’ I received came via a retired midwife, inconsiderately based at the same hospital where the near tragedy took place. I can’t tell you how scared I was walking down those corridors again. re-visiting the scene of the crime as it were. I had two sessions. The first consisted of telling the counsellor a little about myself and how motherhood had changed me. Then she proceeded to give me advice on how to handle my ‘difficult’ baby. Apparently, she has always wondered about mothers who pull their hair out over a baby that won’t sleep. Apparently, HER babies were never a problem because she knew how to deal with them. What a way to make a person feel just a little bit more uselss as a parent. The second session involved us talking through my birth notes.

Image source:craniohealing.co.uk

I sat there in her sterile, over-heated and window-less room and poured over the notes from both of my births. I read about how each of my labours deteriorated in the same way and how each of my babies almost lost their precious lives. I read about mistakes that had been made, not once but twice. I discovered that my precious son had been taken from me limp and blue and had had a tube inserted down his throat to get him to breathe. The first hands that held my children were not mine. I read words that were not true, not how I remembered them. I read notes detailing how I had been ‘unnecessarily’ upset during my labour with my son (after being told I wasn’t even in labour). I read the awful, chilling words:
“6.30- heart rate decel.
6.32- we ran to theatre
6.35- knife to skin.”
and the slighly more optimistic:
“6.45- live male born.”
I sat there, tears cousing down my face and my breath catching in my throat. I sat there, trying to understand this foreign language and scrawled handwriting. The backdated notes, written post-event due to the chaotic nature of events. The ugly, poorly phrased “we ran to theatre” rising in my throat. I sat there with my crisis before me and my counsellor? She sat at her computer, typing up some notes from her previous patient. After a while she asked if I had any questions. Anything she could help me with. I thought so hard about that. I doubted there was anything she could really help me with. But I wanted to help myself. I asked her why they had had to use general anaesthetic. That was the thing I had most difficulty accepting. I felt that if they’d kept me awake, I would’ve been a lot better equipped to deal with it all. She told me she would get back to me.

Image source: telegraph.co.uk

How does the NHS expect to deal with the rising numbers of women requesting sections due to birth trauma, if this is their idea of a midwife counsellor? Dr Tracey Johnstone claims that “Women are more frightened of labour and delivery now. Among women there almost seems to be a competition about who has suffered the most during childbirth, talking about 18-hour labours and the like, and that scares other women before they have their babies”. How can the NHS expect to deal with birth trauma affectively if this is the opinion of their consultants in foetal medicine? I did not request a section because I had listened to horror stories. I am not naive or stupid. I suffered birth trauma. I almost lost a child. I wanted to avoid that second time around- wouldn’t you? Instead, I was subjected to a second emergency section and I was left traumatised and desperate. I am not in competition with anyone. I am simply a woman who almost lost two babies, perhaps through errors in judegement. I am a woman who was not offered sufficient after-care and who was certainly not counselled. If I do have another baby, I will not be delivering naturally. I hope that you realise that is not an easy decision to make- its the only one I can make.
**Please take the time to visit The Birth Trauma Association website if you have been affected.


13 responses to “NHS Birth trauma counsellors…

  • TheBoyandMe

    My heart breaks for you that you had to undergo this trauma twice. And it is trauma. I know the terror of having to walk the same corridors because I went back in to talk through my notes too. I hated being back there, the midwife was defensive & jumpy. She actually had a back-up midwifr. Luckily I had taken my mum with me. I am now at the point where I want a copy of my birth notes & I want to go through them with my lovely gp. I feel she could start to shed some light on it for me.
    I want another child but I have already told my gp that I will not go back to that hospital, if I have to take out a bankloan to go private I will! I also want a c-section. His heart-rate fluctuated between 80-200, his shoulder got stuck in my pubic bone, they prepped me for a c-section & he was born 10lb 5oz. I will not risk the same with an almost certainly larger baby.
    We will stand our ground!

  • Mummy Beadzoid

    Great post. So disgusting and yet not unique. This should not happen. Not to so many of us.

    Do you know how long you have to request birth notes? The thought of being back there sickens me but is apparently the last step in my counselling. I want to know what they wrote to justify my neglect.

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  • Angela Dawson

    As a former nurse, it saddens me to hear the NHS failing women so spectacularly at a time when they are vulnerable and in need of loving kindness. The system as it currently stands is woefully inadequate and post natal support is patchy and inconsistent. The midwives and health visitors that I have been speaking with all feel impotent and are powerless to change the services that they offer.
    Many of my clients who have experienced birth trauma report that they don’t even have access to someone to go through their notes with them. I am really sorry to hear of your experience. It illustrates a complete lack of care and disregards the impact this experience has had on your life. It seems cruel to make you go back to the very place where the trauma occurred. How is that helpful?
    It is my feeling that services for birth trauma need to be in a comfortable, safe environment, away from the clinical area.
    I am currently liaising with service providers in Bristol in a bid to set up such a scheme.
    I hope you find the help and support that you need to heal from this.
    The Birth Trauma Association is a brilliant place to start, as is the Birth Crisis helpline: http://www.sheilakitzinger.com/birthcrisis.htm
    Thank you so much for posting this. Upwards of 1 in 20 new mothers experience birth trauma. This is a tragedy.

    • ghostwritermummy

      I’ve never heard of Birth Crisis, thank you. I will take a look. Thanks for your comments

      • Angela Dawson

        It’s Sheila Kitzinger’s brainchild and a very valuable service. Her Birth Crisis Workshop (which I attended a few years ago) really highlights the distress many mothers feel months and years later. It would be wonderful if this kind of service were a) unnecessary, because women were getting the right kind of support that enabled them to feel nurtured, safe, empowered and in control during childbirth and b) was fully funded by the NHS. The only thing I would do is to train the telephone listeners in the art of EFT Tapping. I find this to be such a gentle, yet powerful way of dissolving the emotional intensity surrounding traumatic memories. My clients naturally seem to find comfort, clarity and calm, even over the telephone. If you’re interested in finding out more, please look at this link: http://www.helpingmothers.co.uk/index.php/how-i-work

  • Heidi

    Powerful post. Thank you for sharing with us. My first baby’s birth was really traumatic for me. I was rushed in for an emergency c-section after losing a huge amount of blood during labour. Nothing was explained to me or my partner. My daughter was left behind the midwives station overnight and I didn’t get to hold her until 12+ hours later and the midwives there just didn’t want to know us. I never received counselling and I never discovered what went wrong but with my 2nd birth I was lucky enough to be at a different hospital. They completely understood my concerns and wish for a c-section and with my 3rd they were the same, particularly as there were other health concerns with both the boys anyway. It made such a difference.

  • missjacq

    I’m sorry you had to undergo such trauma twice. I cannot believe you had to go back to the same place for a counselling session with an ex midwife?! That is shocking. I hope you manage to find somewhere who can offer you the support and help you need in order to heal from this traumatic experience.

  • mummy@bodfortea

    You know how I feel about your posts on this subject my dear, thank you again for sharing your powerful, tragic story so that others can see they are not alone. It disgusts me that women are treated this way, and by other women!! Hugs x

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