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Compensation victory for woman left with bladder problems after baby's birth
A young mother who was left with a loss of sensation in her bladder following the birth of her child has received £40,000 in an out of court settlement.
“This case was unusual because, rather than suffering from some of the more typical post-natal injuries, my client’s symptoms involved only a loss of sensation on passing urine and loss of sensation of bladder fullness,” said Lindsay Holt, a medical negligence specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP.
“Thankfully she is able to manage her condition by making scheduled visits to the bathroom, but obviously this has had a huge impact on her life.”
Lindsay said that the woman’s ordeal began when she attended hospital for the birth of her second child. “She had encountered numerous problems in her previous pregnancy, and the birth of her first child had been traumatic, culminating in an emergency caesarean section,” she said. “Although she was well throughout this pregnancy, there were concerns about the previous caesarean section and when she booked in it was agreed that a senior surgeon should undertake a caesarean section.”
After being admitted and undergoing a scan to confirm her baby was in the correct position, the woman spent the next 48 hours in increasing pain and distress before again undergoing caesarean. “She was in the very early stages of natural childbirth when she first attended hospital, but when a consultant examined her after a few hours he advised she be transferred to the labour ward to be monitored,” said Lindsay, an associate with the firm. “Despite regular checks and monitoring which showed the birth was not progressing as quickly as it should, and despite my client’s history – in particular her previous caesarean section – she was still treated for those two days as though she would be perfectly capable of natural delivery and was told this would be safe.
“As time went on, my client became increasingly concerned about the risk that her previous caesarean scar may indeed rupture,” said Lindsay. “When she raised these concerns with staff she was reassured that she was under consultant care and everything would be fine.”
Lindsay said her client was moved to the labour suite where her waters were broken and she was given a syntocinon drip to encourage the natural birth. “This itself caused my client more concern, as in her previous labour the drip had led to painful contractions and she associated its use with a complicated delivery.”
After gas and air failed to alleviate the significant pain the woman found herself in, she was given an epidural. “However she had to keep asking for top-ups as the epidural didn’t seem to be working properly,” said Lindsay. “During the evening shift an anaesthetist re-sited it which helped for a while.”
Lindsay said that one nurse gave her client particular cause for concern. “Overnight, she was looked after by a midwife whom neither my client nor her partner had any confidence in,” she said. “She left my client on her own a lot and even though she was in constant pain everywhere – in her stomach, her back and legs - despite the epidural, the midwife did nothing to help and said there was nothing else she could be given.
“My client remembers at one point, someone came into the room and commented that the pain must have died down as she seemed ok now,” said Lindsay. “But the pain hadn’t eased at all - she was just too exhausted to complain any more.”
When the midwife finally told the woman to start pushing, she felt enormous relief. “She thought her labour was finally progressing, and was told that they would ‘give it an hour of pushing’. A doctor didn’t examine her before this, and throughout her time on the labour suite she was not seen by a consultant.”
After an hour of pushing, the midwife went to fetch a doctor, who examined the woman and said that she was not fully dilated and should not be pushing - the midwife had incorrectly estimated the cervical dilation. “My client was extremely upset, exhausted, and growing increasingly anxious about rupturing her previous caesarean scar,” said Lindsay. “Finally, the consultant asked if she wanted to have a caesarean section. She was exhausted and upset and so agreed to the procedure. But she was devastated that she had been in labour for so long and had been told she was fully dilated and pushed for an hour – all causing further risk to her and her baby’s wellbeing.”
Despite the recommendations that a senior consultant perform the operation, it was in fact carried out by another, lower-grade doctor. “There was a lot of blood loss during the operation, and once the baby was delivered my client remembers there being a sense of panic in the theatre. It was clear there were complications, and a consultant was called in. My client heard a lot of talking and was given medication to make her uterus contract which made her sick. She said her impression of the operating theatre was one of people rushing and panicking. When combined with the anxiety and distress of the previous night, she was distraught with worry.”
Thankfully the woman’s child was fit and healthy when born, but in the recovery room the new mother developed a high temperature. She was given antibiotics and placed under observation, but neither she nor her husband were told what was happening to her. When she became very poorly with an infection she was transferred to a ward, where she remained for several days before being discharged. She was unable to nurse her baby in comfort as she had hoped, and missed getting home quickly to show the new baby to the family.
“My client was ill and feverish at home, and had a badly infected caesarean scar,” said Lindsay. “It was only after she finally began to recover from the ordeal that she noticed that she had no sense of whether her bladder was full or empty. Tests by a specialist later showed that she has a good capacity bladder, but that she was lacking in bladder sensation.”
When further tests did not reveal an obvious cause of the problem, the woman was referred to a neurologist. “He advised my client that she had suffered nerve damage due to the labour and the caesarean section, and has said it was possible the nerves might never repair,” said Lindsay.
Lindsay said her client had to insist on proper urology after-care and follow-up for the condition, which left her client now needing to make scheduled visits to the bathroom, which take longer than usual in order to ensure her bladder is empty.
“Despite admitting liability and settling the claim, it has taken the hospital more than three years to apologise to my client for her ordeal and the ongoing distress she suffers,” said Lindsay. “This whole traumatic experience has left a new mother devastated. I only hope that this settlement brings some comfort to her and her family as they now begin the process of moving on with their lives.”
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