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Friday 25th May 2018

NHS childbirth lottery

6th October 2007

With staff shortages and poor training in the NHS causing 1,000 stillbirths a year, Rowan Pelling reflects on how she almost lost her child at birth due to inexperienced staff.


My second child is due in March and my feelings of hope and joy are mingled with foreboding. Few of us will ever feel so vulnerable or so reliant on the experience of others than when we are in labour.

So it is scandalous that so many pregnant women are denied the care and expertise they should expect from maternity services, with the inevitable, tragic results.

Claims for medical negligence related to NHS childbirth stand at £4.5billion, of which £3.3billion relates to children who developed cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen starvation at birth with many linked to staff shortages.

In 2005, when I was making the Channel 4 documentary The Truth about Childbirth, I was told that 2,000 extra midwives were needed to provide adequate cover with an extra 10,000 required to provide gold-standard care. Now the Royal College of Midwives say a further 5,000 are needed by 2012.

The young women I saw seemed inexperienced and could not explain why my labour was failing to progress. My son was in an awkward posterior position. An experienced midwife would recognise this. Instead, the advice was for my labour to be speeded up by a syntocinon drip.

The result was I ended up in the operating theatre with my baby whisked to a special unit for the first 24 hours of his life. Since then I have learnt that syntocinon should be administered gradually and I should have been advised of the risks.

I will not take pot luck in my local maternity ward again.


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