HULL and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has paid £25,000 compensation to a woman whose baby girl was delivered stillborn
The damages payment – and public apology – comes after medical experts consulted by Neil Hudgell Solicitors concluded that the woman’s baby would have been born healthy had a series of errors not been made.
Despite experiencing reduced movements from her baby on numerous occasions during the final month of her pregnancy, the teenage mother was repeatedly sent home by antenatal staff, including after suffering a haemorrhage.
When the woman then went into labour four days after the haemorrhage, midwives still wrongly treated the 18-year-old as a ‘low-risk’ pregnancy.
Concerns over her baby’s health were only raised when a new duty midwife arrived for a shift change during the labour and realised monitors were tracking the mother’s heartrate, and not that of her baby.
When an ultrasound examination was carried out, it revealed the baby girl had already died.
Independent medical experts, consulted by solicitor Hayley Collinson as part of the legal case against the Trust, concluded the baby would have been born healthy had she been induced in the three days immediately after the woman suffered the haemorrhage.
Now, more than three-and-a-half years later and with a two-year-old son, the woman has finally been compensated by the Trust.
Solicitor Mrs Collinson said the legal action, and subsequent result, had been significant as the woman had until now blamed herself for not being more forceful when communicating her concerns.
“It was important in this case for the hospital to admit its errors as this mother, who has been through the most traumatic of circumstances, had been wrongly blaming herself for the loss of her daughter,” she said.
“She questioned as to whether she should have done more, and been more demanding when she had concerns. It would certainly be concerning if a culture of being dismissive of a mother’s concerns, no matter what age, were to develop within any hospital.
“Certainly, there was no suggestion given to our client that her baby could have survived until we investigated and sought alternative, independent medical opinions. It is simply unacceptable to send a grieving mother away from hospital, having lost her baby, under the impression nothing more could have been done, when quite clearly it could. She blamed herself for a long time and it’s had a massive impact on her life.
“Added to this, during the labour she was assured all was fine on several occasions and given the false impression her baby was alive and doing well. That wasn’t the case.
“That simply added to the level of shock and distress when the true situation was discovered. We are happy to have helped at a very difficult time, also identifying suitable counselling for her and helping her towards some form of closure.”
The woman, of East Hull, had needed several hospital admissions and assessments for pain, loss of water and bleeding from May 31, 2011 onwards.
Examinations on a visit to the antenatal unit at Hull Royal Infirmary on July 5, when she had suffered the haemorrhage, picked up a heartbeat on ultrasound scans.
It was this evidence which led independent medical experts to conclude that the baby would have been born in a “good condition” had the woman been induced between that date and July 8.
Instead, she was sent home and admitted again on July 9 – the day after her due date, with her daughter stillborn the following morning.
The woman believes to this day that midwives repeatedly ignored her concerns due to her young age at the time, and says she will never come to terms with what happened.
She said: “It was my first pregnancy. I was young and I put my trust in them but I received an appalling level of care and I felt like I was treated like a silly little teenager. I wasn’t. I had a good head on my shoulders and already had qualifications in childcare.
“You can’t put a price the loss of a baby. Taking legal action was not about the money, it was about the hospital accepting they should have done more.
“They could offer me all the money in the world. It won’t bring her back. All I have is the memories and the photographs I took of her in the hospital.”
Recalling her labour, the woman says the situation was made even more difficult by midwives being completely unaware of the graveness of her situation until it was too late.
“One of the midwives kept saying to me that I’d be a mum in the next few hours. Then I remember them checking my baby’s heartbeat and suddenly turning the screen the other way,” she said.
“Then they told me my baby had died and gave me an epidural, so I didn’t feel any pain. I had to give birth later that day.
“When I got home I struggled to cry. My family were very tearful, especially my parents, but I didn’t cry until the funeral a week later. I felt that I needed to be strong for my family, but then I broke down very quickly and was placed on anti-depressants.
“I blamed myself for not speaking up more, but now I have some answers and some closure. It means I can stop blaming myself, as I have done all this time. I really thought it was my fault.
“Obviously, I think back and dwell on it a lot. If she was here now she would be in nursery. My friend has a little girl and she is three and I can’t help thinking I’d be doing similar things with my daughter.”
Despite the trauma of losing her baby girl, the woman did experience the joy of having a baby boy the following year.
“He is my absolute world and he keeps me positive, but throughout my pregnancy with him I was frightened that things would go wrong,” she said.
“Every time I had a scan she was fearful of being told there was no heartbeat.
“I take him to the cemetery with me because when he is older, he will ask questions. He knows about his sister. You ask him where she is and he points to the sky. He will understand as he gets older.”