Tragic end to “low risk” birth
Jo Hart was looking forward to the birth of her first baby last May, when tragedy struck.
Her pregnancy had gone smoothly and was classed as low risk – then her waters broke three weeks early. “My husband Dan and I went to St Mary’s thinking ‘oh lord it’s come so soon’,” says the music promoter, who lives in Temple Fortune.
“But when we got there they couldn’t find a heartbeat. The next day, I had to deliver the baby, which was just horrendous. They found the umbilical cord was unusually long and was around the baby’s neck eight times.”
Although Ms Hart cannot praise the St Mary’s midwives enough, like many women before her, including high profile cases like Lilly Allen, Amanda Holden and Kim Marsh, she had to deal with the trauma of losing a baby in late pregnancy.
“I can’t fault the midwives, they were incredible and really looked after me, but after I had given birth, they had to carry on dealing with other patients. There was no bereavement counselling, no-one came to see us, I was handed a leaflet for (stillbirth and neonatal death charity) SANDS and we were left alone to deal with it.”
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On Friday, Ms Hart and fellow bereaved parent Colette Murphy went to Downing Street to hand in an 1100-strong petition calling for improved routine ante-natal care, and support for distraught parents.
“Maternity care needs more resources in this country, they are chronically overstretched and it is all down to money. After 20 weeks the NHS doesn’t scan you if you are classed as low risk as I was, whereas most other countries do more than two scans. I can’t help thinking, if they had done another, would they have seen the cord around the neck and got the baby out earlier?”
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Ms Hart praises her local Rabbi, who sensitively arranged for the baby’s circumcision, naming and burial when she and her husband were too grief-stricken to cope.
“The doctors wanted us to see the baby because they think that’s a good way of getting over it, but to this day I’m glad I didn’t. The memory of giving birth is traumatic enough. Afterwards, I was all over the place with my emotions and it took a while to phone SANDS. Thank goodness we had amazing family and friends to help us through it and SANDS put me in touch with Colette who had also lost her child at 37 weeks.”
The duo is campaigning for bereavement rooms at Queen Charlotte’s and St Mary’s Hospitals, as well as improving the number of routine antenatal tests.
“Every day 17 babies die in the UK. Ten are still born and seven are neo-natal deaths; that’s 6,500 babies each year, yet it’s hardly talked about. I don’t want to scaremonger but pregnancy doesn’t always end in happy ever after – there are complications, it can be really hard and you may leave hospital empty-handed.”
Ms Hart is now seven months pregnant and her baby is due to be delivered by Caesarean days before the anniversary of her son’s death.
“I couldn’t go through that again so I have gone private for one-to-one care and regular scans. I know I can’t guarantee anything. Every day I wake up and wonder if the baby is kicking. Although you are excited, you cannot relax until that baby is in your arms.”
Annie Lennox, Kym Marsh and singer Sonique have all signed the petition at www.gopetition.com/petition/42081html.
SANDS can be contacted at www.uk-sands.org