Mum describes 'nightmare' of losing twins amid 'systemic' problems with Welsh maternity care

  • 'It's just an awful thing to go through', Ruth Mason tells ITV Wales health reporter Katie Fenton.

A woman has recounted the "nightmare" of losing her twin boys as leading baby loss charities have described failings in maternity care as a "systemic" problem in Wales.

Mum-of-three Ruth Mason, from Merthyr Tydfil, gave birth to identical twins in August 2018.

George and Henry, who would have turned six this year, died in the womb. Ruth said this was as a result of failings in care by Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.

"I knew the moment I was put into that ambulance something was seriously wrong, and I had known for a couple of weeks before that," the 42-year-old said.

"The reason that the boys died was because of a condition called twin-to-twin transfer, which was always a risk in identical twin pregnancies, the idea is that it's monitored.

"If it's spotted in time, women will go on to have two healthy babies. That's what didn't happen in my case. It was apparent quite early on at 12 weeks, but I was never referred for the specialist care I should've been.

"Ultimately, the correct procedures and policies weren't in place to care for what was a high-risk pregnancy."

Ruth said telling their eldest son, Teddy, about the loss of George and Henry was one of the most difficult parts.

At the time of Ruth's pregnancy, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board was hit with scandal after "serious failings" were identified within its maternity services.

It was placed into special measures, but has since come out and reviews have found "substantial progress and improvements" made there.

However, a report on Tuesday, 14 May, found Wales-wide progress on reducing the number of babies who are stillborn has "stalled".

The joint report by Sands and Tommy's found Wales has had the highest stillbirth rate of any UK nation since 2014 and highlighted "little progress on reducing rates of neonatal mortality over the past decade".

Georgia Stevenson, from Sands and Tommy's joint policy unit, said: "I think systemic is the word we would use.

"We often talk about specific services or specific scandals, but actually when we look at the issues they're repeated across all services to a greater or lesser extent.

"We already have some good guidance out there in terms of what care should look like and when it's not being delivered and babies are dying as a result, that's really a key area where we need change."

Looking at the whole of the UK, the report claimed at least 800 babies could have been saved last year, and said the current level of pregnancy loss and baby deaths is "not inevitable".

The charities said while England has a target of halving rates of stillbirth, neonatal death, preterm birth, maternal death and brain injury by 2025, compared to 2010, there is no equivalent in Wales.

Robert Wilson, head of the Sands and Tommy's joint policy unit, said: "Our report makes clear that the Welsh Government must commit to targets for reducing pregnancy loss and baby deaths and eliminating inequalities.

"These targets should be the driving force behind a comprehensive programme of policy activity, with the funding and resources this needs.

"So many recent reports have underlined the need to improve the quality and safety of maternity and neonatal services.

"In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we believe that these issues are as relevant in Wales as the rest of the UK, and the Welsh Government should do everything in its power to tackle these issues and save babies' lives."

It comes after the UK health secretary accepted calls for a national strategy to improve maternity services in England after a damning report into birth trauma found poor-quality care is "all too frequently tolerated as normal".

Ruth shares her and husband Barry's story in the hope of helping others going through a similar experience.

Ruth described her experience as "horrendous, frightening and devastating".

"I think anybody who finds out that they're pregnant, you start living everything: first birthdays, first Christmases, especially as a larger family," she said.

"To suddenly have all of that snatched away from you is awful, a terrible thing. You have to process telling people, telling our son. It's just an awful thing to go through."

She also said midwives and other health professionals are "owed so much by the people in charge as well".

"We're hearing all the time of these units being understaffed, overworked. In the report it refers to staff sickness - well it's not a surprise if they're as stretched as they are.

"These are the people on the frontline working with these women, giving the care to these women and these babies and these families. We need to consider them as well."

The Mason family mark George and Henry's birthday on 4 August every year.

In response to Ruth's experience in 2018, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said it was "truly sorry that Ruth feels let down by the care she received at the former Cwm Taf Health Board".

A spokesperson said: "Since 2019, and the establishment of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, we have worked in partnership with the Welsh Government, our staff and communities to make significant changes and improvements in maternity and neonatal services.

"We can now be proud that our services are leading the way for others in Wales and that families have always been at the heart of our continuous improvement journey."

The Welsh Government said it recognises "devastating impact" loss during pregnancy or the neonatal period can have on families.

"We are committed to improving maternity and neonatal services across Wales," a spokesperson said. "Since 2023, considerable improvements have been made in the care and outcomes of premature babies through the PERIPrem Cymru programme."

The NHS describes PERIPrem (Perinatal Excellence to Reduce Injury in Premature Birth) Cymru as a perinatal care pathway of 11 evidence-based interventions to reduce preterm mortality and brain injury.