‘I thought I was dying’: Mum recalls birth trauma as report calls for overhaul to maternity care

  • Lauren Ostridge spoke to Jess Jones who is so traumatised by giving birth she says she'll never have children again.

A mother who believed she was dying while giving birth says she has been left so traumatised it has made her never want children again.

Jess Jones, 31, says she had always planned on having two or three children, but after undergoing a terrifying pregnancy she faced an emergency C-section to bring her son Charlie into the world.

The experience has left the mum so traumatised she says her "dream" of having a big family has been taken from her.

"I feel I was failed," the mum from Helsby, Cheshire, said. "My ambition was to always have two, three children, that was always my dream, after what I've been through, it's taken that away from me."

Jess is just one of thousands of women who gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry which is now calling for better maternity services.

The Birth Trauma Inquiry found women were subjected to a postcode lottery, and said many are often "treated as an inconvenience" while poor care in maternity units was "frequently tolerated as normal."

Jess's issues first began when her waters broke at just 13 weeks and Charlie was given a 2% chance of survival.

She told medics she wanted to continue with her pregnancy, and eight weeks before her due date, she had to undergo an emergency C-section to bring Charlie, now four, into the world.

But during the procedure Jess says she was told very little, and at one point she believed medics had showed her her son as a way of saying goodbye.

"They took Charlie away, and that's where my key trauma is there because in that moment I could feel them tugging, I could feel just rummaging, that was the only way I could explain it," she said.

"I think I physically grabbed someone by their arm and I said, 'please tell me is this normal, because I feel like something is going wrong'.

"I said 'I could feel things too much, is this normal, am I okay, what is happening?'

"It was just like I was just palmed off, it was like 'ah you're fine' and I was like 'I'm not, I'm really struggling here, I just need someone to sit with me and just explain to me what's happening, where's my baby and what's going on?'

"It did get to the point where they did put me to sleep in the end because I wasn't coping, I thought I was dying."

Conservative MP Theo Clarke speaking in the House of Commons, London, during a backbench debate on birth trauma. Credit: PA

Jess is one of an estimated 30,000 women across the UK who have suffered a traumatic birth. The issue is now the centre of a damning report.

The Birth Trauma Inquiry has heard harrowing evidence from more than 1,300 women.

Some say they were left in blood-soaked sheets while others and their children suffered life-changing injuries due to medical negligence.

A third of the women who gave testimony to the inquiry said they experienced traumatic births, while one out of 25 were left with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Responding to the findings, the report's authors wrote: "In many of these cases, the trauma was caused by mistakes and failures made before and during labour.

"Frequently, these errors were covered up by hospitals who frustrated parents' efforts to find answers.

"There were also many stories of care that lacked compassion, including women not being listened to when they felt something was wrong, being mocked or shouted at and being denied basic needs such as pain relief."

Among the recommendations included in the report is the creation of a maternity commissioner reporting to the prime minister.

Maria Repanos, from Hudgell Solicitors in Manchester, says she has seen a spike in mothers turning to her for help.

She said: "We deal with those cases that meet the cases to meet the threshold for them to bring a claim.

"There might be more vulnerable members of society, people who are neurodiverse, those where English isn't their first language, we see some of those individuals but I imagine there are lots we don't see."

Yana Richens, Director of Midwifery, Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, where Jess had her son, said they were looking into her case.

“Good communication is key to providing a positive experience and we are sorry that we have not met the high standards we expect on this occasion," she said.

"We are looking into this to understand what we could have done better. As a Trust we always aim to respond to individual feedback from women and families proactively, to address concerns raised and to make improvements where required.

“We are also currently in the process of reviewing the Birth Trauma Inquiry report to understand what we can learn as a Trust to make improvements within our services, based on the recommendations within the report. We will work with the wider NHS and our service users to do this.

“We will continue to listen to and support women in our care who experience a traumatic birth, to ensure that they are given timely access to ongoing support.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can find help and support below:

  • The Lancashire and South Cumbria Reproductive Trauma Service: Trained therapists will provide a range of psychological interventions and support which will be discussed with you to meet your personal needs

  • The Birth Trauma Association: The only charity in the UK solely dedicated to supporting women and families who have experienced traumatic birth.

  • Sands, : Safe space for you to grieve and find support, whether you're a parent, family member, loved one, or NHS professional.

  • Tommy's: The largest UK pregnancy and baby loss charity, funding research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage and providing trusted pregnancy.

  • CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably: They run a free and confidential helpline and webchat. It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

  • Mind: A mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues. It provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.