Postnatal care in the UK has reached an all-time low. British parenting website Mumsnet.com released the results of a postnatal care survey that assessed the conditions of over 1,200 women. These women, all of whom had given birth in the UK in the last three years, were asked about food, water, pain relief, and washing facilities. While these are considered as postnatal ward basics, a number of women were unable to access these during their stay. Of the women who took the survey, 61 percent said that they couldn’t get food; 45 percent stated that they were given insufficient pain relief; 22 percent stated that they weren’t given water when they needed it; and 19 percent said that they went without washing facilities while recovering in the ward.
The DailyMail.co.uk reported more disturbing figures about the state of postnatal care. According to the publication, a BBC Freedom of Information request revealed that 305,019 errors were recorded by nurses and midwives within the last three years. These errors ranged from the loss of records to the “needless” deaths of mothers and babies.
Mothers like Kelly Derry and Millie Gee have shared their stories. Derry recounted to the DailyMail.co.uk about how three different nurses all failed to give her pain relief when the effects of her epidural had begun wearing off. She resorted to asking her husband to buy painkillers when he and the couple’s two other children came to see Derry and her newborn daughter. “He was shocked that I’d not been given anything by the nurses, but I was just relieved to see him. I took the tablets and, within minutes, I was feeling better. I didn’t say anything to the staff about it—I just wanted to get out of there,” Derry admitted.
Gee, who gave birth to twin daughters at 33 weeks, said that she was ready for her babies to stay in the Special Care unit. “What I was unprepared for was being abandoned in the maternity unit with no pain relief and having to argue with nurses and midwives about seeing my babies,” Gee said, before elaborating on her treatment. Gee’s daughter’s were born at two pm but Gee herself was unable to see them until 10 in the evening. Just as shocking is Gee’s account of how she was denied pain relief, food, and water by nurses who told her that they were “very busy” before walking off. Gee discharged herself within a few hours’ time; and she believes that her experience led to her developing postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Women who’ve just given birth should not be going hungry or thirsty, or having to ask repeatedly for pain relief, or wash in dirty bathrooms,” stated Mumsnet.com founder Justine Roberts. “New mums are often acutely aware of how much pressure NHS workers are under, and they’re extremely reluctant to complain. But it’s becoming clear that women need to be offered better ways to give detailed feedback to hospitals on their experiences, so that changes can be made where necessary.” (Related: Over 50 percent of women and their newborns put at risk in the UK under a failed centralized healthcare system)
A spokesman for the National Health Service (NHS) responded: “In an NHS survey of 20,000 new mothers, 95 per cent felt they were treated with kindness and understanding and 88 per cent felt that if they needed attention they received it.” Despite this, 12 percent of surveyees said that they felt otherwise. When asked about the likelihood of having more children in the future, five percent responded that their experience in postnatal care had put them off the idea of expanding their families.
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