A Lincolnshire woman who suffered continued bleeding and an infection when a piece of placenta was left inside her after giving birth says she raised concerns which were ‘ignored’ by midwives.
The 30-year-old mother, who lives near Gainsborough, says she told midwives that she felt something was wrong at the time, but was discharged from Lincoln County Hospital with her baby 12 hours after delivery and assured there had been no complications.
Now, following legal action by Hudgell Solicitors, she has been awarded a five-figure damages settlement.
The woman had given birth on May 26, 2018 and the hospital notes stated that the placenta had been delivered five minutes after birth.
She suffered constant pains and bleeding and was reviewed at Scunthorpe General Hospital on June 12, when a scan confirmed a 6cm piece of placenta had been left inside her.
She underwent surgery to remove it the next day but remained in pain and continued to lose blood.
A further scan on June 22 confirmed part of the placenta still remained, but she had to wait until August 20 for another operation, in which the remaining section was removed.
However, during that procedure she had to be brought round after she was given anaesthetic without signing a consent form, before it was administered again.
The mother-of-six wanted to share her story as part of a YouGov survey into maternity care and birth injury, which highlighted how some mothers feel their concerns are too easily dismissed.
The joint piece of research, commissioned by Hudgell Solicitors and the mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline, showed a quarter of mothers were left feeling unsatisfied with the support they received before, during or after giving birth.
The survey, which questioned more than 2,000 parents on their pregnancy experiences, also showed that half of parents were left feeling unable to raise their concerns with healthcare professionals, and that a quarter of mothers said their appointments felt too short or rushed. One in ten felt unable to raise concerns which had previously been dismissed.
Mother upset at losing bonding time with her new baby
The woman, who had experienced a similar issue following a previous birth, says the pain caused her to struggle with her new baby at home.
“It was hard because I couldn’t really do much, I felt bad because I needed family and friends to help look after my baby girl,” she said.
“I couldn’t hold her for very long because of the pain. I couldn’t bend down or pick her up to change her or anything like that. It felt like I lost a lot of bonding time with her when she was a baby.”
During the ordeal, which the woman said left her feeling ‘low’ and needing anti-depressant tablets, she says she became annoyed as her ‘concerns were ignored’.
“When I was told I had to have another operation, as they hadn’t got all the placenta out the first time, I was annoyed and it left me having to go back in and be messed about with again. It was another delay when I was still in pain,” she said.
“When the scan showed the piece of placenta inside me I felt mad because I warned them after I gave birth that I had the same feeling that I’d had with my previous birth, when it also happened then.
“But I just got ignored and they were just saying ‘it’s normal, it’s fine’, but because I went through it previously I knew that my instincts were right, but all I kept getting told was ‘we’ve checked the placenta, it’s fine, there’s nothing there’.
“When I was on the wards and said I was in pain it felt like they just ignored me. I also told the midwife when she came a couple of days after I had been sent home that I’d lost loads of blood clots, but they just shrugged it off and said it was normal.”
Medical negligence claim alleges breaches of care by Trusts
The woman instructed Hudgell Solicitors and a medical negligence claim was made against co-defendants the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, relating to the care of both hospitals.
Sarah Colgrave, a solicitor in the Clinical Negligence team at Hudgell Solicitors, issued a list of allegations that she said “amounted to breaches of care on behalf of the NHS Trusts” and resulted in “unnecessary suffering” for the mother.
Overall liability was denied and the Trusts only collectively admitted to a breach of duty of care in relation to a delay in arranging the second surgery to remove the placenta.
However, having indicated intention to take the case before a judge in court, the Trusts returned with a five-figure damages offer which was accepted by the woman.
“It was our case that had the midwife carried out a reasonable examination following the delivery of the placenta and noted the 6cm piece that was retained, a consultant obstetrician would have been called for advice and appropriate treatment carried out immediately to ensure its complete removal,” said Ms Colgrave.
“This in turn would have avoided three months of blood loss, pain, suffering and loss of amenity, the development of an infection, the exposure to three scans, surgical procedures, administration of three anaesthetics, and psychological damage by not being able to care for her new-born baby without the assistance of family and friends.
“Our instructed midwifery expert agreed that at times it can be difficult to identity small fragments of placenta membranes that may still be retained following delivery, and that these are not always visible to the naked eye or on the scans. However, she maintained her opinion that not to recognise a piece of placenta measuring 6cm was a breach of duty of care.
“Furthermore, the mother having to undergo two procedures to remove the placenta was wholly unnecessary. Any competent obstetrician would have removed all tissue during the first procedure.
“Given the strength of our evidence we invited the Trusts to re-assess the matter following their initial correspondence and told them we felt confident we would succeed in this claim if it went to court. We were pleased this resulted in a satisfactory settlement being offered to our client.”