Medical Negligence

Hospital admits causing stillbirth of baby boy as midwives stopped monitoring heart rate and missed danger signs


Caroline Murgatroyd

Team Leader & Senior Associate Solicitor

7 min read time

A woman whose baby was stillborn due to mistakes midwives made during labour says she was ‘appalled’ by the lack of compassion shown – telling how she spiralled into depression and how the pain of losing her first child will never fade.

Charlotte Warner, of Streatham, south London, was just 23 when she lost her baby boy CJ as midwives failed to notice he was being starved of oxygen during labour.

They had stopped taking regular heart readings despite having induced labour with a Propess to start the delivery.

A Serious Incident Investigation (SRI) into the care provided by St George’s Hospital in London, in May 2018, found guidelines had not been followed, as CTG traces should have been continually checked given Charlotte had been induced, was showing complications of uterine hyperstimulation and was experiencing painful contractions.

As part of a legal case led by medical negligence claims specialists Hudgell Solicitors, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust admitted that had monitoring been conducted as required, CJ’s deterioration would have been spotted before it became terminal, and steps could have been taken to ensure he was born alive and well.

“The pain of losing a baby like we did never goes away,” said Charlotte, now 29.

We’ve just passed what would have been CJ’s sixth birthday, and we are always left wondering what he’d look like now, what his character would be, and what life would be like with him here.

When he was stillborn, we were left feeling completely let down by the staff, and that was before we knew that it had been their mistakes which cost him his life.

Not long after he had been stillborn, one of the doctors made a comment to me along the lines that I’d still be able to have more babies as I was only 23, as if I shouldn’t worry too much as I still had plenty of time to become a mum. I thought that was an appalling thing to say, as it was almost dismissing the devastating impact of losing CJ.

Charlotte with her first child CJ and her partner Charlie.

Charlotte says she was unaware of the developing danger CJ was in during labour, even when midwives didn’t restart monitoring after she’d been allowed a break to get up and walk around.

“I wasn’t aware of how things were going wrong, but of course nor were they until it was too late,” she said.

I’d expressed how much pain I was in several times, but I’d been reassured on a number of occasions that all was as it should be and, as it was my first baby, I just accepted what I was being told.

Then, all of a sudden a midwife said that she couldn’t find a heartbeat, and I knew instantly that it was bad because there had never been an issue hearing CJ’s heart all the way through my pregnancy.

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Maternity services centre of damning parliament report

A recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Birth Trauma found maternity services across the UK to be of  ‘shockingly poor quality’ and highlighted how many women are left feeling ‘neglected, ignored or belittled’ when at their most vulnerable.

“I think there’s a lack of compassion, and that is something which is really needed when you go through something like I did,” said Charlotte.

I suffered from depression afterwards, I was suicidal at times as I couldn’t cope with having lost my baby, and I felt guilty in the moments I did enjoy myself.

Now a mother to three young children, Charlotte says each pregnancy and birth has brought complicated, mixed emotions that she and her partner Charlie have struggled to cope with.

“When my son Chase was born a year later, I struggled to bond with him and had to have counselling, as I didn’t have the feeling of joy I should have, it was more a feeling of guilt to be happy, and worry that he would become ill too,” she said.

Then, a year later we had another son, Cody, and I struggled again and had flashbacks, and was often in tears.

I’ve since tried to return to my work in childcare but I just haven’t been able to cope. It’s being around young children and the memories that stirs. We’ve recently had a baby girl, Notty, so we’re fortunate to have a lovely family, but we’ll always have the ‘what ifs’ hanging over us, and we’ll always not have CJ with us.

Apology and damages settlement

The Trust offered a full apology to Charlotte and agreed an-out-of-court-damages settlement.

She believes young mothers are too easily dismissed when they raise concerns during pregnancy and labour.

“I think I was judged because I was a 23-year-old who wasn’t married. I wasn’t listed to and certainty didn’t feel cared for,” she said.

When I had my second baby I was very different. I was much more vocal, and I was raising every concern I had, as I didn’t want anybody to dismiss my concerns. My priority was having a healthy baby delivered, and if people were put out by me questioning things, or going back to hospital, then so be it.

Solicitor Caroline Murgatroyd, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Charlotte and said: “As highlighted by the recent parliamentary inquiry, there are simply far too many cases where devastation is caused by avoidable errors on maternity wards, and this is being exacerbated with many women then feeling they have been treated with a lack of empathy and compassion.

In this case, Charlotte had been induced and there was a failure to properly monitor her baby’s heart rate, meaning midwives missed that it had led to hyper-stimulation.  Had the required checks been carried out, it was the view of independent experts consulted as part of the case that baby CJ’s death would have been prevented.

I was pleased to be able to support Charlotte and secure an apology and admission from the Trust, but this of course can do nothing to soften the lifelong hurt of losing a precious baby. We see far too many cases of maternity failings, and it is hugely important that each one is challenged, investigated, and lessons learned. Improvements have to be made, and quickly.

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A need for answers

Losing a baby during pregnancy, birth or in the first weeks of their life is a heart-breaking and distressing experience that can have a long-lasting impact on all involved.

Sadly, bereaved parents can sometimes be left feeling their baby’s death could and should have been avoided, and that the medical care they received fell short of expected standards.

In instances like this, when questions need to be asked, our team of stillbirth and neonatal death claims specialists can provide a key supporting role to grieving parents.

We can support parents in terms of how to make a complaint about their care, help them seek compensation, and, if needed, ensure a thorough investigation is held into what happened and why.

Read more: Experts in Stillbirth & Neonatal Negligence Compensation Claims

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