Shrewsbury maternity scandal: Natural isn’t always the natural way

“What’s wrong?” my husband Yaw asked as I entered a room holding our 4-month old baby in my arms.

“Have you read about the Shrewsbury Maternity Scandal?” I asked.

“No, what happened?” he said.

I sat next to him and started reading the story that I had come across only a few minutes earlier on news.sky.com.

The story that gave me chills as it was too similar to our own story.

The story that showed me in black and white how ours could have ended if I didn’t have a c-section.

It said:

“From the window of her home in Telford, Hayley Matthews can see the playground where she imagined she would play with her son. Jack Burn was born in 2015. His mother knew he was going to be big and had repeatedly asked for a caesarean section.

“I know if I’d had a caesarean he would have been at this park today,” 

“I asked on numerous occasions for a caesarean. They said no.”

During delivery, Jack’s shoulder got stuck.

By the time he was born he’d had no heartbeat for 15 minutes. Doctors were able to resuscitate him but he was rushed to intensive care.

“He wasn’t responding to treatment,” Hayley says. “They said I’d have to let him go because there’s nothing they can do.”

Eleven hours later Jack passed away.

It was only as time went by that Hayley realised his death was part of a pattern at the trust.

“You think it’s just your child it’s happened to and then you hear of another 10, another 20 and now it’s gone to over 1,000.”

This could have been us

I looked up and saw the horror in Yaw’s eyes.

Our baby was a big baby too. When I was pregnant, I had been informed about the risks that could come with vaginal birth (brain and spinal injury) and been recommended a c-section.

In the last few weeks of the pregnancy, the baby was turned head down which gave me space to think about my decision. Deep inside, however, I knew I would not be willing to take any risks.

Despite having a huge desire to give birth vaginally, I knew I had to do what was safe for the baby.

My husband did not think any different either and kept reminding me that we need to think about the baby’s safety here whenever I was in doubt.

Minutes before the birth, doctors checked the baby’s position and to my big surprise, he was turned feet first! (this never happened during the pregnancy.) So he basically made the decision for me.

Although I did not want to take any risks, the pressure and desire to bring the baby to the world ‘naturally’ was way too strong. If the baby hadn’t turned, these feelings could have easily resulted in a weak moment and going for the vaginal birth.

Reading Hayley’s story showed me what could have happened had I decided to take this path.

No words could possibly describe how this felt but if you are parent yourself, you probably have a pretty good idea.

Truth is, that the pressure to give a ‘natural’ birth is often indirect or hidden and therefore extremely dangerous.

To give you an example, here are a few of the reactions I got from people when I’d said that I had a c-section:

“I am sorry…”

“Ah, what a shame,…”

“Oh no, vaginal birth, it is such an amazing experience..’

These comments plant a seed in your head that can – if you are not careful – result in a weed of extremely fast growth.

Vaginal birth should not be a default option

The problem is that deep inside many people believe that mothers ‘should’ be able to give birth ‘naturally’. Anything else feels like a failure on some level.

Yes, vaginal birth can be a wonderful experience and has been for many mothers. But this definitely does NOT make it any better or more normal than a c-section and should NOT be a default option.

Sure, back in the day, the only and back in the day, vaginal birth was the only way to bring babies into the world – but not because c-section was abnormal, but because it didn’t exist.

Which is why a lot of parents lost their kids or had to go through a lot of complications we cannot even imagine today.

We are extremely lucky we don’t have to go through this not even remotely as often as mums did when vaginal birth was the only option. C-sections give us an option to bring to the world more healthy children and that’s all we should see it for. 

If this is not understood by regular people, then be it. It’s still sad but understandable.

However, if medical professionals fail to see this, then there is something seriously wrong. (apart from the obvious, that is.) 

As stated on independent.co.uk, several mothers died after failings in care, while others were made to have natural births despite the fact they should have been offered a Caesarean.

Ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the scale of the failures shown in report was ‘beyond his darkest fears’. He said a ‘natural birth ideology’ had pressured mothers to avoid C-sections even when ‘that might have been the safer option’.

In an interim report published in December 2020, Ms. Ockenden noted that for around 20 years the Caesarean section rate at the trust was consistently 8% to 12% below the England average, with this being held up locally and nationally as a good thing.

Her review team formed the clear impression there was a “culture” within the trust to keep Caesarean section rates low, as this was perceived as the “essence” of good maternity care in the unit.

Would someone at this day and age refuse to make a phone call just because it’s not a natural way of communication?

To me, it’s common sense.

We have options that our grandparents did not, so why not make use of it?

I mean …

We no longer spend our evenings sitting by the fire like past generations did, do we?

We watch TV and play with our phones.

We don’t speak to other people only in person, we use modern technologies like mobile phones and the internet.

We no longer die of flu, because we now have medication for it.

Would one in this day and age refuse to make a phone call because it’s not a natural way of communication

Would one refuse to take a life-saving medication because it’s not natural?

That would be ridiculous, right?

Just like it is when it comes to birth.

There is no natural and unnatural. There’s just progress in modern medicine.

Although it’s incredibly sad that this subject came to the forefront after so many lives were lost, I am glad it did as it will trigger necessary conversations and actions that need to take place.

What are your views? How do YOU perceive the pressure to give birth vaginally?

Let me know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like