- One mother describes her childbirth experiences in an NHS hospital
- Nicola Bonn, 36, from London, unexpectedly gave birth before due date
- After a traumatic first birth, she had planned to have a caesarean
- After her waters broke at 2am on a Sunday, she was taken to hospital
- Found it was poorly staffed and says she wasn’t given proper pain relief
Three in four labour wards have no consultants overnight and just two out of 165 maternity units has one present around the clock, according to new findings.
Here, one mother gives a very honest account opens up about her out-of-hours birthing experience at University College Hospital, Euston, London, that left her ‘traumatised’ and suffering panic attacks.
Nicola Bonn, 36, a radio broadcaster and parenting blogger from London, tells FEMAIL about her ordeal.
Nicola Bonn, pictured above with her son Louis, after going through a long and agonising birth
Nicola lives with her husband Chris, daughter Poppy who is two and son Louis who is 12 weeks old…
Everything about my birth was organised to a T. Following a traumatic labour with my first child that culminated in an emergency C-section, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance second time round.
I was to have the second planned caesarean on August 4th, with one of the very best consultants at the hospital.
Having spent my pregnancy being extremely anxious, the support I had received in planning my perfect birth was phenomenal and my antenatal care went above and beyond my expectations.
Nothing ever goes to plan though does it? When my waters broke at 2am on the Sunday prior to my perfect birth, I panicked.
Pictured in labour before the birth, Nicola says had booked herself in to have a caesarean with one the very best consultants at the hospital but her waters broke early
When Nicola (pictured above with Louis) arrived at the hospital, she was horrified to discover only one trained midwife and two student nurses at the reception of the Assessment Unit
I panicked because I hadn’t even considered that I might have to experience contractions again.
I panicked because I wasn’t mentally prepared for the situation and the possible emergency scenario that happened previously and I panicked because I knew from past experience that 2am on the weekend is no time to be having a baby.
(Whatever people may tell you to the contrary.)
When I arrived at the hospital I was horrified yet not surprised to discover only one trained midwife and two students at the reception of the Assessment Unit.
My contractions were every two minutes within about half an hour of my waters breaking and I was nearly passing out in agony.
I was eventually ushered into a room where I was checked over by a student midwife and then I was informed that I’d have to stay there until they could get me up to Labour ward.
I stayed in that hideous, blood-splattered room for two-and-a-half-hours with the odd sympathetic visit from a midwife.
My contractions were now every minute, I was screaming my lungs out and due to the lack of available staff I wasn’t allowed any pain relief other than paracetamols. No gas and air. Nothing.
I was also experiencing panic attacks. Everything had been planned to support me mentally as well as physically following the horrors of my previous birth when my daughter Poppy was sideways and became stuck during my caesarean without which we both would have probably died.
Nicola stayed in a ‘hideous, blood splattered room for two and a half hours’ and was told she could only have paracetamol as pain relief – no gas and air
Nicola, pictured above with Louis, also started experiencing panic attacks and was reminded of the horrors of her previous birth to daughter Poppy
The thought of a repeat situation was too much to bear but arriving in the middle of the night on a Saturday meant that there was no one available to offer me the relevant physical and mental support.
I wish I could tell you that I managed to eventually locate some inner strength and deal with the situation with say hypnobirthing or yoga but sadly the truth is that I was a banshee – a woman possessed.
I was hysterical and managed to slap my husband round the face whilst begging the midwife for something – anything to relieve the pain. It just felt so wrong, so unfair that in this modern day, in a huge central London hospital, they could not provide me with anything to take away the intense agony.
In the midst of my hysteria, I demanded that my husband called my Mum. ‘Are you SURE?’ he said with a look of trepidation.
‘Get my F-ing Mum’ I screamed as my eyes rolled in the back of my head.
Pictured above with Louis in her arms and two-and-a-half year old Poppy under her dressing gown, she says: ‘We were told time and time again that no one was available right now because they were dealing with emergencies in theatre’
Fortunately, Nicola (whose son Louis is pictured above) says, ‘After ten hours my caesarean was honoured and I must admit that they did a fantastic job. I felt in safe hands and the consultant although not my preferred choice, was excellent’
Within an hour my Mum was there and she was so shocked to see me rolling around the floor screaming that she burst into tears.
She immediately marched over to the midwife desk and demanded to know what was going on. It turned out that all the staff were in theatre and there was no one available to deal with me at that precise moment.
So the pain continued. I swore and my husband and Mum tried their best to calm me down.
Nicola admits she is ‘incredibly lucky to have two beautiful children (one of which, Louis, is pictured above being breast fed) who are safe and well but what if I hadn’t been so lucky?’
Finally we were taken up to the Labour Ward but once again there was a huge wait for pain relief. I was given gas and air, which took the edge off, but the epidural took about an hour to come in addition to my two and a half hours in the Assessment Ward.
By this time the three of us were all pretty much hysterical. My mother was almost chucked out of the room for informing the midwife that ‘this was like a third world hospital’ due to the lack of pain relief and general support.
I’m aware that I may sound like a spoilt brat right now. I mean women give birth every day without pain relief.
However, if an emergency situation had developed, I’m not sure that the relevant help would have been available as readily as it might have been on a weekday.
We were told time and time again that no one was available right now because they were dealing with emergencies in theatre. There just didn’t seem to be the necessary backup staff.
After ten hours my caesarean was honoured and I must admit that they did a fantastic job. I felt in safe hands and the consultant although not my preferred choice, was excellent.
Here’s the thing though. I don’t believe that any woman should be forced into a situation where they feel scared or unsafe. Pain relief should always be available, even if it is just gas and air.
Nicola says she continues to love the NHS and all that it stands for but ‘this is a situation that can’t continue’. Pictured, her son Louis
It is scientifically proven that many women go into labour in the night when they feel cosy and safe, so why on earth aren’t our hospitals at their most prepared in the wee small hours? I’m incredibly lucky to have two beautiful children who are safe and well but what if I hadn’t been so lucky?
What if the lack of available staff had led to a stillbirth as has happened to a number of women.
I was traumatised after my birth experience mainly because so much of it reminded me of the horrors of my first labour. I had panic attacks for days after but they slowly have subsided and I’m now enjoying the milky cuddles and the gorgeous bonding between my son and his big sister.
I love the NHS and all that it stands for but this is a situation that can’t continue. Women need to feel safe and secure when in labour, whatever the time and whatever the day.
A University College Hospital spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry to hear that Ms Bonn is unhappy with some aspects of the care she received. We had no formal complaint but we have now made contact with her to discuss the concerns she has raised.’