A lifetime of suffering for mothers and their babies | Letters

In the wake of the Ockenden report, one mother recounts the lifelong consequences of a traumatic birth, and a midwife, Christine Hosein, writes of the burden on her profession. Plus letters from Dr Rob Hendry and Roger Wilkinson

I read your article (Mothers were shamed and traumatised at Shrewsbury hospital. I was one of them, 30 March) feeling my heart pound and my anxiety levels soar. My son will be 30 in a few weeks. Thanks to his “natural” forceps delivery (which I was patronisingly told I should be proud of), I have had six bladder operations, the first just 10 months after he was born and the others over the subsequent years.

None of these operations were “natural”, and the trauma that I have experienced and that I live with day to day, not knowing when the next operation will be needed, is a direct consequence of a misplaced focus on natural childbirth 30 years ago. My son is physically perfect but, like me, has suffered anxiety which may or may not be a consequence of his stressful delivery.

My heart goes out to the writer of the article and to anyone who has been denied agency in childbirth, or who has had to live with the negative consequences of a mismanaged “natural” birth for a lifetime as I have, none of which was acknowledged by the hospital. I can assure my consultant at the time that there is nothing natural about incontinence at the age of 30 and having to live with it and the psychological effects ever since.
Name and address supplied

• I wish to express my dismay at the findings of the Ockenden report on maternity care at the Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust (Police examine 600 cases after damning NHS baby deaths report, 30 March). As a former midwife who has worked in several London hospitals, there can be a dogma of “natural birth” at all costs. This is not just a management issue with regard to poor staffing, heavy workloads and bullying by senior staff, but also of the midwifery training in terms of assertiveness or candour.

There has been a shift towards American-style nursing, and 12-hour shifts were introduced 20 years ago. This is the main driving force in my decision to leave the profession. It is a demanding role that requires physical stamina as well as emotional resilience. Midwives often don’t get lunch breaks or even toilet breaks. I would frequently be sent for my lunch break at 5pm after starting at 7.45am. This is not sustainable in the 21st century. Midwives are bearing the brunt of poor management.
Christine Hosein

• While the Ockenden report identified an array of failings at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS trust, it also unearthed a culture of fear and blame that resulted in failures being repeated. Healthcare staff were even fearful of cooperating with the inquiry. This culture is the reality for many healthcare professionals, and we hope the review will be a catalyst for change. Healthcare workers must work in an environment where they are not afraid to raise incidents and errors. This means no fear of blame or personal recrimination, support from leaders equally committed to an open learning culture, and patients getting the apologies and explanations that they deserve.
Dr Rob Hendry
Medical Protection Society

• How shocking that it has taken two decades to expose the full extent of the maternity care scandal. Perhaps things would change if whistleblowers were generously and publicly rewarded for their efforts rather than left to be punished with dismissal.
Roger Wilkinson
Leasgill, Cumbria

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