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“It was embarrassing… I didn’t want to leave the house”

As ITV Central works to reveal the human cost behind the Shropshire maternity scandal, one mother speaks about the injuries she suffered while giving birth - and how it's affected her entire life.

She says she hopes that by speaking out, she can help others feel less isolated.

  • Full video report by Charlotte Cross

Andrea Bates says she was fully expecting her life to change when she had her first child five years ago.

But she had no idea that complications during birth would leave her struggling ever since.

“It is amazing being a parent - it’s the best thing in the world,” she says.

“But you still expect to be partly the same person you were before and do some of the same things that yo could do before. Whereas now, there's things that I can’t do.”

These things include her job - she had to quit the career she loved, travelling the world as airline cabin crew.

She can no longer exercise, or dance, or run around and play with her daughter.

Even walking or sitting for prolonged periods of time is uncomfortable.

Eva Bates was born five years ago.

She says her delivery was far from straightforward. She wasn’t progressing in the usual manner - but she says that despite repeatedly asking for a Caesarian section, doctors pushed ahead with a natural delivery.

Eva was eventually born by forceps.

"We questioned it, and said why can't we just have a Caesarian section, surely if things are not working naturally there's something wrong,” she tells me.

"The doctor shook her head and so then they made me try again, so I had to push another three times when they told me to.

"And then on the final push, they pulled out my daughter with 'brute force' is what my husband's description of it. She was just yanked out."

Andrea had to quit the job she loved as airline cabin crew. Credit: Family handout

The problems began soon afterwards.

She says she was in “excruciating” pain, but - being her first child - she assumed this was normal after just giving birth.

It was only when she went home, and the painkillers began to wear off, she realised the level of pain she was in couldn’t be normal.

It later transpired that she had contracted an infection in her episiotomy stitches, and she ended up with an open wound which didn’t heal for nine months.

She also had pain down her leg, which persists to this day, and a prolapsed bowel.

And that has affected every part of her life.

I had no control, if I needed to go to the toilet, I'd have accidents. It was embarrassing - I didn't want to leave the house because of it.

I didn't want visitors, because I was embarrassed if I had any accidents when I had visitors - it's not something you really want to share with people.

I've had a biological mesh put in which has helped but it hasn't helped with the control.

So I still have urgency and problems - I don't go out of the house until I know I'm not going to have an accident.

– Andrea Bates
Eva was born with a small bruise on her cheek. Credit: Family handout

Eva was born healthy, with just a small bruise on her cheek - a fact for which Andrea says she’ll be forever grateful.

But at the same time, her life has been changed forever.

She’s had numerous operations to try to rectify the issues she’s dealing with, and is likely to need more in future.

She says, despite the intimate nature of her ordeal, she wants to speak up to help raise awareness with other people who may be going through the same thing - and reassure them that they’re not alone.

“If I can reach out to one other person, and make them feel like they’re not alone, to me, I feel like I’ve done something good,” she says.

Andrea's case is now one of hundreds being examined as part of an independent review into maternity care at the Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust.

In a statement, the trust's director of midwifery, Nicola Wenlock, said the trust was working with the review.

“We would like to reassure all families using our maternity services that we are listening and acting on feedback," she said.

"We recognise we still have further to go and I’d like to reassure mums-to-be and their families that we are working to ensure our care is aligned to best practice guidance.”

She said the trust had made "significant improvements" which had been highlighted by Care Quality Commission inspectors following a a visit in November.

The final inspection report has not yet been made public.

Anyone who has been affected by this week's story can find advice and support here.

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