Hear my voice | Maternity Patient Partners

I think the midwives in Essex do an incredible job, especially those in Basildon hospital, where I had my son nearly 5 years ago. The whole way through my pregnancy I did think that some things could be done a little better, so when the opportunity came about to volunteer as a Maternity Patient Partner (MPP) with Healthwatch Essex to improve maternity services, I jumped at the chance.

I haven’t got any complaints about the service I received during my pregnancy and birth. Perhaps this is easier said than done, but I think women need to change their mindset around pregnancy and birth. Mental health plays a big part of whether women have a good experience or not. More needs to be done to address mental health issues early on in pregnancy, because when it does go wrong for women, it can have a very negative effect which can lead onto postnatal depression and not fully enjoying those first few months of becoming a new mother.

Something that I think helped my mental health when I was pregnant was that I never expected to know the midwife who would deliver my baby. As we never know exactly when the baby is going to arrive, it’s best to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be meeting the midwife for the first time when you go into labour. One piece of information I found really helpful from my NCT coordinator was that when I did arrive at the hospital in labour, if I didn’t feel that me and the midwife would get along then it would be no problem at all to ask my partner to speak to the head midwife on call that day and ask for someone else. Knowing this gave me the reassurance that I could change my midwife if needed – although, thankfully, in my case I didn’t need to.

Another thing that helped me, was that I didn’t go in with a birth plan. My plan was to have a baby. I had in my head that I would like a natural birth, however, I had no idea what was going to happen so thought best not to make a plan because then if it went wrong, I would feel like I had let myself down. I think some women go in with this ideal plan and a lot of the time, it unfortunately doesn’t go the way they want it. This puts them on the back foot from the start. I know some women like to have a plan as it makes them more relaxed, however, I think it would be helpful if midwives address this early in the pregnancy. It might be a cultural thing for me as I was brought up in Ireland and over there the majority of women going into labour do not have a birth plan.

I also had a water birth which really helped to relax me. When I got out of the water for check-ups I found this unbearable so I would always recommend water births where possible.

When considering areas that perhaps could be improved, I felt the aftercare could have been better. I was out of the hospital within 7 hours after having my son and I didn’t feel ready to go home. I had been in labour for 40 hours and hadn’t slept. I understand that they need the bed and to concentrate on other people that need their help more than me, but I was really scared and I felt that no one really cared because everything in my case had ‘gone to plan’. This is something I would really like to feedback as part of my role as a Maternity Patient Partner.

Sadly, the first couple of weeks at home weren’t good. The midwives who came to my door weren’t very helpful or caring and I had a real struggle with breastfeeding. I really wanted to be able to do so, but unfortunately as I didn’t have the support, I put my son on the bottle as I worried he wasn’t getting enough milk. I think more responsibility needs to be taken by either the midwives or health visitors to help new mothers when it comes to the aftercare and perhaps this is something we, as MPPs can consider in our project alongside the Maternity Voices Partnership, to improve for women moving forward. I felt very much like I was just being signed off one register onto the next which was a real shame.

I was asked what my biggest concern is within services and I would have to say it is the resources. Under the circumstances, I think everyone is doing their best with these limited resources – 99% of midwives want their ladies to have a great experience and it is refreshing to know that the midwives of Essex are on board with improving what is already a great service!

Leanne Cadman

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