A mother who suffered the tragic stillbirth of her first child has been awarded damages after hospital staff failed to investigate when she raised concerns about her unborn baby’s reduced movements.
The mother believes her baby may have been born alive if the London hospital had carried out a risk assessment 38 weeks into her pregnancy and given her the chance to deliver the child at an earlier stage.
Instead, the mother was told to wait a further eight days and by then the baby had died in the womb; she was then asked to deliver the child naturally. A post-mortem estimated that the death occurred less than 24 hours before delivery.
“It is the biggest loss of my life and the most painful thing ever,” she said, “the staff made me feel that I was worrying too much because it was my first pregnancy.
“I don’t feel my concerns were treated as a serious issue, but I was the mother and I really should have been listened to properly,” said the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous.
After taking legal action against University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust she was awarded a damages settlement of £45,000 after the Trust admitted breach of duty in the medical negligence case.
The mother says she now hopes her experience will lead to changes in procedures at the Trust, “so that the same thing doesn’t happen to others.”
‘Had the pregnancy been induced earlier her baby would have been born alive’
“When my client attended the hospital and explained that she was experiencing decreased fetal movements for the second time, medical input should have been sought from specialist obstetricians. Had this happened, and this should have been standard procedure at the Trust, it would have led to a detailed risk assessment being carried out.
“My client would then have been given advice about the options to deliver her baby at an earlier stage. Had the pregnancy been induced at this earlier stage her baby would have been born alive.”
‘I asked for a scan as I was worried, but that didn’t happen’
The woman was pregnant with her first child in 2019 when she attended the University College London Hospital (UCLH) in central London after reporting the reduced fetal movements to her community midwife.
The midwife checked the baby’s heartbeat and “I remember it sounding slower than previous occasions, but she said this was normal, however she could not find any movement during the assessment and I was then told to go to hospital,” recalled the mother.
She immediately went to the University College London Hospital where the midwife there monitored the heartbeat and movements for half an hour.
“While I was being monitored me and my mother noticed that the heartbeat looked flat and could not be heard. When I queried this the midwife told me that it was the machine not working properly. The midwife also said that the baby could be sick and that might explain reduced movements and that she was not worried.
“I asked her for a scan but that didn’t happen, instead the midwife said, ‘when we feel sick, we just lie on the bed all day and don’t feel like doing anything, in the same way baby might move less when they are sick’, but she told me my baby’s heartbeat was normal.”
Four days later still concerned about her baby’s movements, the woman paid to have a private scan and was told the heartbeat of the baby, the blood flow and weight were all normal. After experiencing a further decrease in fetal movements, the woman once again returned to University College London Hospital four days later. The midwife on this occasion could not trace a heartbeat and a doctor was called who confirmed the same.
“I waited two hours to see a midwife, I was taken to different rooms as the heartbeat checking machines were not working in some and the scan machines were not working in others. Finally I had a scan and they confirmed my baby had passed away.”
‘I don’t think I will ever really get over it’
As part of the legal case against the Trust, Hudgell Solicitors sought the expert opinion of an obstetrician who stated: “There was no benefit of prolonging the pregnancy at 39 weeks when the claimant presented again with reduced fetal movements. At this point the claimant should have been offered an induction of labour.”
It was alleged that had the Trust given the woman the opportunity to deliver her baby at an earlier stage, on the balance of probabilities, the baby would have survived, and the woman would not have suffered the psychological trauma of losing her child.
“I made a complaint to the Trust asking why I wasn’t offered an elective caesarean given my repeated concerns and I attended a complaint resolution meeting with the Trust. I hope that procedures will now be changed so that the same thing doesn’t happen to others,” she said.
Chartered legal executive Ms Wood said, “This was a tragic case where my client had prepared a nursery expecting to soon take home a new-born child but her concerns about the baby’s health were not taken seriously enough at an earlier stage.
“Sadly, this type of medical negligence claim is not uncommon. Had the Trust listened and acted earlier upon my client’s concerns the baby would have survived. Following their investigations and after we served a letter of claim, the Trust did admit liability in full.”
Since suffering the stillbirth, the woman says she experienced depression and insomnia and found it difficult to plan her second pregnancy, “I’ve now had my second child, but I was really worried and anxious about what was going to happen; I don’t think I will ever really get over it but I will always be grateful to Helena,” she said.
Making a Stillbirth Compensation Claim
Stillbirth negligence claims consider the pain and long-term psychological effects you have experienced.
While we know nothing will ever make up for the loss of an infant, a settlement can help you access the specialist services you need to help you cope better, including counselling or therapy costs, whilst costs such as funeral fees can also be recovered.
If you or someone you know has suffered in any way, through no fault of their own, please get in touch and we’ll take the worry and hassle out of making a claim. All medical negligence claims have a time limit, so use our online claim form today and we’ll guide you every step of the way.