(Wednesday 5 February 2014) Following the broadcast last week of the Prime Time documentary on the deaths of four babies in Port Laoise hospital, voluntary organisation AIMS Ireland has been inundated with calls from women and staff about their experience in maternity units around the country. Women have also been reacting strongly to repeated comments from senior Cabinet ministers and leading medical experts that Ireland is the safest country in the world to have a baby in.
In response to comments made by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at the Labour Women’s 2014 conference on Saturday about the safety of the maternity services in Ireland, women and staff have been contacting AIMS Ireland in their hundreds to share their negative experiences of maternity services in Ireland and communicate how they feel silenced by Ministerial comments.
Krysia Lynch, Co-chair of AIMS Ireland said: The AIMS Ireland Facebook page has been overwhelmed with harrowing and difficult stories of traumatic events that women have experienced during the birth of their babies. To support them, we are offering an anonymous SHOUT BACK – HAVE YOUR SAY whereby women and staff can contact us in confidence to share their stories. The response has been huge with hundreds of stories shared so far. It is so important that these women are heard and their experiences are validated. It is not enough that we have set the bar of a positive birth outcome at a living mother and baby. We are publishing the stories from women and health care providers on the AIMS Ireland Facebook page and also a dedicated Facebook page set up to provide a safe space for these women – SHOUT BACK – HAVE YOUR SAY.”
Lynch continued: “We urge every politician, every health care provider and the HSE to read these stories and listen to what women are telling them. There are serious problems endemic across the maternity system that need to be addressed urgently. AIMS Ireland has repeatedly raised these issues on local and national levels including current and former Minister for Health and HIQA. We hear these stories daily. Women and midwives have had enough – they are shouting back and breaking the silence on unsafe and non-evidence based maternity care in Ireland. We once again call on the Minister for Health and the HSE to implement an immediate review of the maternity services in Ireland as recommended by the HIQA report. Our model of care is broken and choice in maternity care is almost non-existent.”
Lynch concluded: “AIMS Ireland extends their deepest sympathies to the families who lost their babies in the maternity unit in Port Laoise. We hope that our Minister for Health and the HSE will do everything within their power to ensure that catastrophic events like these will never happen again”
Notes to Editors:
Please find below a selection of quotes that women have sent to us. There are many more available on the Facebook pages linked above:
1. “On my second baby I was adamant I didn’t want my waters broken on admission. I had that happen on my first baby and ended up with a lot of interventions. I talked about it in my antenatal appointments and in my birthplan and no one seemed overly interested, saying that it was nothing usual and that if a mum request it specifically it would be fine. In labour my midwife also supported my choice and said that everything was going really well, but a doctor came in and demanded to know why she didn’t break my waters. The midwife and doctor went into the hall and the doctor was yelling at the midwife that if I didn’t want to play by her rules that I could go home and do it myself.”
2. “The woman next to me had a caesarean and was quite unwell. Her baby was crying and she couldn’t reach him – she rang the bell but no one came. Finally she asked me to lift her baby to her, which I did but was terrified to do so! Surely a woman whom has just given birth herself shouldn’t be handling or be responsible for another woman’s baby!”
3. “On my last baby I was told I couldn’t go home early as I had a bleed on my baby previous but at 8pm on the first night a nurse came down and told me I had to leave as they needed my bed. I had to pack up, take out the drip, and was expected to wait in the waiting room for my partner to collect myself and the baby. He had to arrange childcare at 8m at night to come get me.”
4. “In the labour ward -1st hour with my second baby…on her due date…no distress in me or baby….and they wheel out the oxytocin…when I protest m/w says ‘ this could go on for days and days and you and your baby could die…do you WANT your baby to die?’”
5. “I had an obstetrician forcibly hold my legs down for a VE. I felt raped.”
6. “I asked an obstetrician about homebirth at booking and was told that I could do whatever I wanted but if I wanted a living baby to stay where I was. So much for informed choice!”
7. “Something I feel which is important to add, while there is no choice for women in this Country, there is also no choice for midwives. Work is hard to come by and hospital based/ obstetric led. Midwives have to work in an obstetric unit for a set number of years before they can entertain the idea of working in community based care. The State tells us we are ‘qualified’ but not ‘qualified enough’. Many of us feeling that by the time we have done our training and worked in an obstetric unit, that we no longer have the skills to facilitate normal birth. And midwives who do consider working in the community know this comes on hse terms, very little autonomy within their practice and client selection as per the MOU.”
8. “I was trained to be a good midwife, to support women in their informed choices. It breaks my heart that I can’t do that. I can’t sit with a woman and help her breastfeed for an hour. I can’t support a woman to not have her waters broken because hospital policy says she must. I can’t prepare a woman for labour and inform her properly because I don’t have the time. I stay behind and do my paperwork for no extra pay because I had to be with my women as much as I can during my shift. And I get disciplined by management because I should have gotten it all done in 13 hours. That says it all really.”