Mumsnet is running a valuable campaign for better postnatal care.  Mumsnet’s own survey has some horrific findings that are all too familiar.

The survey of more than 1200 women who’ve given birth in the UK in the last three years shows that among those who stayed in hospital after giving birth, many reported that it was sometimes difficult to access food, pain relief, drinking water and washing facilities.

  • 61% had been unable to access food when they needed it;
  • 45% had been unable to access pain relief when they needed it;
  • 22% had been unable to access water when they needed it; and
  • 19% had been unable to access washing facilities when they needed them.

My wife suffered many of these following the birth of our first rainbow baby.  This was meant to be a happy time to celebrate but the indignities and petty cruelties she suffered were in stark contrast to the the superb antenatal care during induction.

My wife describes a near Silent Hill level discrepancy between the quality of care from the day shift and night shift.  Switchover may not have been accompanied by air raid sirens and paint peeling from the walls but it felt pretty close at times.  It even had the metallic scraping and screaming sounds.  My wife physically dreaded kick out time and the coming of the night shift.  She would beg me not to leave.

The promises made during the day and communicated to the night shift staff through notes and even verbal briefing were ignored.

My wife was left for 5 days following birth in her own blood because there was no access to a shower on the ward.  The shower was broken and the only other shower was on a different ward.  This shouldn’t have been a problem but staff were unwilling to watch our daughter for a few minutes to allow my wife to have the wash she so desperately needed.

We’re not a baby sitting service

When I asked when the shower would be fixed I was met with puzzled looks.  It turned out that someone had just hung a sign saying “out of order” but not bothered to tell anyone about it.  Staff saw the sign and assumed that someone else had done something about it.

When my exhausted wife told staff that she couldn’t sleep she was told “you’ve just had a baby, you’re not meant to sleep.”

My wife tried breastfeeding but struggled.  Whoever said there’s no use crying over spilt milk hasn’t two lost hours worth of colostrum.  The night staff took the syringe my wife had spent hours expressing and tried to warm it by putting it in boiling water destroying it in the process.

When my wife asked for help feeding my daughter (who was in a light box for jaundice treatment) instead of helping the nurse simply took our daughter away from my wife (who could only hold our daughter every three hours because of the treatment) and fed her by bottle before putting her back in the light box.

New mothers were left alone and scared.  When a new mother asked for help with her baby following her Caesarian the staff just took the baby away from her and walked out the ward.  Vulnerable mothers were left isolated and feeling like failures.

My wife was sobbing with tears, frustration and rage only to have her concerns dismissed as day three hormones rather than a legitimate response to shitty behaviour.

Part of the reason we got through it relatively intact was that I was there to fight to have her concerns taken seriously.   Many of the other parents on the ward were too exhausted or lacked the confidence to fight their corner.

There are too many stories like this.  I applaud Mumsnet’s efforts to raise awareness and more importantly take action against this poor practice and lack of compassion.

You can submit your ideas for improving postnatal care by tweeting @MumsnetTowers with the hashtag #BetterPostnatalCare, by posting on their Facebook page, or by emailing campaigns@mumsnet.com.

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