A young mother has spoken of her heartache of feeling too afraid to have more children and extend her family due to medical staff leaving her with long-term injuries following the birth of her only child.
The woman, who has asked not to be named and was represented in a successful medical negligence legal case by Hudgell Solicitors, suffered a second degree tear when she gave birth to her son and needed stitching afterwards.
However, errors made during the repair procedure left her in pain for months – needing extra repair surgery months later, and told she faced the threat of serious further injury should she have another child naturally in the future.
The errors, which were admitted by the Hospital Trust involved – caused not only physical pain and suffering for the woman – but also psychological trauma going forward, as she has felt unable to face giving birth again.
‘It has impacted on my life and future family plans’
“The poor treatment I received after giving birth to my son has impacted on my life and my hopes for a bigger family,” said the woman.
“I was told that if I was to have another baby after the repair surgery, it was recommended I had a caesarean because otherwise I could end up with a fourth degree tear and possibly need a colostomy bag for life. It wasn’t something I thought I’d need to consider so quickly, as I had the coil fitted.”
Despite this, the woman fell pregnant just before her son’s first birthday – leaving her facing what she now says was ‘the hardest decision’ of her life.
“They said I could have had a caesarean at 37 weeks, but I’d already missed out with bathing my little boy and taking him for walks due to the pain I’d been left in after his birth,” she said.
“If I’d had a caesarean, I would have been in the same boat again, but with a scar on my stomach. I also really couldn’t face the idea of more surgery.
“I also knew that if I went through a natural birth, I faced the possibility of needing a colostomy bag for the rest of my life and a worse tear. I couldn’t have had my son climbing on me either and there would have been a risk of infection.
“I didn’t know what to do. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But I felt I had no choice but to have an abortion. I felt I had to have it and I was heartbroken and gutted. My son was still so young and I was not ready.
“I should never have been in a position where medical reasons influenced a life decision like that though.”
Woman believed injuries were common after birth until seeing specialist
Even now, the woman needs further surgery to fully repair the damage caused by the initial errors in 2013. At present, however, it is not something she is ready to face.
“I don’t want to take it any further until my son is older because I couldn’t stand the pain,” she said.
“The more scar tissue they cut away, there will be nothing left to stitch up.”
The woman says that in the initial days after giving birth to her son, she assumed she was simply suffering as many mothers do after having a first child.
Having remained in hospital for a number of days due to losing blood, she was still in pain and bleeding when she returned home, something midwives said could be painful for some time and would take time to heal.
And having read online that pains could last between 6-8 weeks, she assumed everything would return to normal in time.
However, with pain persisting more than two months later, and unhappy with how the stitching looked, she went to see her GP, who sent her to a gynaecologist as her stitching had not healed.
“It wasn’t an easy birth as I had an epidural but I could still feel everything,” she said.
“If they had listened to me in that delivery room when I said I could still feel pain, they could have maybe done it right the first time and this could have been avoided.
“Initially, when I came out of hospital I was really sore, but just thought that was normal for someone who’d had a tear and been stitched up. As far as I was concerned, I assumed I would be sore because I’d just been stitched, so I didn’t think much more of it. The midwife suggested a few ways to soothe it but pain was expected.
“I was still bleeding and it was still tender at 10 weeks. Then I looked in the mirror and it looked like a wound. It had healed but it hadn’t joined together.
“My GP looked at it and said the perineum is usually 3cm but mine was only 1cm. I was referred to see a gynaecologist and that was when I was told I needed more surgery and the significance of my injuries became apparent.”
Going forward, the woman says she can’t at present see herself having more children to give her son a brother or sister.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of going through similar complications again,” she said.
“If I could have more children and guarantee there wouldn’t be more complications, I’d like to have more, but it is so difficult given what I have been through,” she said.
“My sister and I were really close growing up and I hate to think of my son on his own without siblings. But I don’t feel I can give that to him and I feel robbed.”
Five-figure damages offered after birth claim highlighted failure to follow guidelines
The woman took legal advice through Hudgell Solicitors, and as part of the case against the Trust which runs the hospital, it was alleged that a specialist trainee had not been adequately supervised when repairing the tear.
It was also alleged that they had failed to apply appropriate technique and failed to note the tear hadn’t been repaired correctly.
It was also alleged the trust failed to follow the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.
The trust admitted “on the balance of probabilities” that it failed to apply the appropriate technique, that it had failed to follow the NICE guidelines and that it was likely the repair was not carried out to a satisfactory standard and caused the subsequent symptoms and need for further surgery.
It denied the allegations about supervision of the specialist trainee and failure to note it hadn’t been repaired correctly, but offered the woman a five-figure damages settlement, which she accepted.
‘New mums should be encouraged by midwifery staff to question any changes to their body’
Solicitor Nicola Evans, who represented the woman in the case, said: “It is often the case that someone who suffers injuries such as this simply cannot face further surgery when they have a young child to care for.
“This lady is in that situation now and it is all avoidable if the repair is done correctly in the first place.
“Pregnancy and labour is always difficult for the first time. No first-time mother knows what to expect or quite how their body is going to recover afterwards. When faced with injury, initial thoughts are often simply to get it fixed as quickly as possible so that they can enjoy their new bundle of joy.
“In my client’s case, it was a substandard repair which, again, she did not know what to expect and just assumed that the problems she had after the repair were to be expected. This was not the case.
“New mums should be encouraged by midwifery staff to question any changes to their body and where necessary request examination by either the midwives or their GP, to ensure that problems are not left unnecessarily.”
The woman said Nicola was a great support to her throughout her claim.
She said: “She has been brilliant and really kept me up to date with everything as my legal case progressed. I am glad she was able to get admissions of error from the trust and I hope lessons are learned, both by the hospital and in terms of awareness of other mothers to ask questions over their care.”