After reading a story online and some of the events I have heard about and witnessed, I put out a request for experiences around coercion and intervention relating to sweeps and induction and whether other options had been offered. My heart hurts and this post definitely needs a trigger warning.
Some of these stories are more recent than others, all these women still remember their births in detail – and I know that all of this still happens.
Thank you for opening your hearts and sharing your experiences.
I ask myself – when did it become standard practice to treat women like this, when did it become standard practice to watch and support your colleagues to treat women like this, when did we become so disenfranchised and disempowered that we accept being treated like this? I include my first birth in the “we” of this.
If a baby is so poorly that induction is needed (and many of these babies were not showing any signs of being poorly), how does induction, which can be a long, drawn out and stressful process for woman and baby, lasting up to a week, with its increased risks of caesarean and instrumental delivery, help?
How does this fit in with The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code of Conduct and the General Medical Council (GMC) Standards and Ethics?
Why are women not explained what the pros and cons of sweeps and induction are, why is expectant management not being offered as per NICE Guidelines.
Most importantly – how after the Montgomery ruling is this INFORMED consent?
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These are powerful words, as written by the women who sent them to me. Change needs to happen – this is not acceptable.
Her response when I asked her why she broke my waters was “you wouldn’t have let me if I’d asked.
Morning Sam, just read your post on induction. You know the story of my pregnancy with Oscar. I had to go to the hospital on the 13th January 2014 because Oscar wasn’t moving around as much, the Doctor told me I couldn’t do anymore for him so I should be induced as I was 2 days away from my due date.
The midwife X who was looking after me that night asked me to go back the night after to have a check up. So I did, and she broke my waters without asking me. I told her I wanted to go home but wasn’t allowed.
Her response when I asked her why she broke my waters was “you wouldn’t have let me if I’d asked”…. I was so angry Sam but scared as well as I knew I was “high risk”. I wish I had you in my corner, keep up fighting for those who don’t seem to have a voice.
All any of the medical staff saw were problems on paper, nobody considered me as a mother.
I live in Caerphilly and had my little girl in Nevill Hall. I was frightened into being induced. It had taken 10 rounds of IVF to conceive her, I was an older Mum (43) and I had Gestational Diabetes.I was told there was an extremely high risk of shoulder dystocia when I delivered my huge baby who would be at least 9lb 12oz.
Induction at 38 + 3 failed and she was born by c-section at 38 + 6 weighing 8lb 9oz – not emergency but certainly not elective. All any of the medical staff saw were problems on paper, nobody considered me as a mother.
I didn’t even get skin-to-skin straight away as she was whisked off by an overzealous doctor to check her over even though nothing was wrong. My birth experience definitely triggered my PND and stopped me enjoying the first few months of my baby’s life.
I was told my baby needed to be induced straight away or she WOULD DIE.
I was asked why I wanted my baby to die and told that I was putting my baby’s life at risk when I declined induction at 42 +2. I was told that I was not engaged and my baby needed to be induced straight away or she WOULD DIE. I was not offered any other path.
I birthed her at home more or less exactly 12 hours later.
When I went into hospital the next day they wouldn’t let me go home.
With my first baby I was offered a sweep at 41 weeks and started contracting mildly that night. I didn’t realise what it was, or what to expect afterwards.
When I went into hospital the next day they wouldn’t let me go home. I ended up having Artificial Rupture of Membranes (ARM), a drip, ventouse and a post partum haemorrhage (PPH). I was really upset afterwards and only in hindsight understood the implications of an intervention leading to another.
With my second baby I refused sweeps which this time were offered from 38 weeks! I also declined to be induced at 41+5 and went on to have a normal 5hr delivery at 42+1. The second hospital were supportive of my pregnancy continuing past 42 weeks.
RE – University College London Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust
I wasn’t even told that not being induced was an option.
I was completely pressured with my first two children (7 and 5 years ago). Ruined the end of my first pregnancy and resulted in the most painful induction and birth of my second.
Learned my rights for my third and fourth.
I wasn’t even told that not being induced was an option. The last two weeks of my first pregnancy I was terrified of being induced which caused me a huge amount of stress. In the end he came out of his own accord the day before the induction was booked.
Just writing this down I can feel the fear in my body.
With my second the induction date did arrive. At 3cm dilated they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t in labour. Irrespective of this fact, induction was still insisted on and my waters were broken.
It was without doubt the most excruciating pain I’ve ever endured and in contrast to my first labour, which was very long and totally natural, I knew something wasn’t right.
Eventually with the help of ventouse my little boy was extracted from me, whilst I lay on my back, convinced my pelvis was going to shatter into a million pieces he came out, completely back to back.
On reflection I’m sure it was just his position that hadn’t yet allowed labour to start, and that he would have come on his own accord very soon.
My ‘overdue’ baby was also covered in vermix. I knew my rights with my following two babies, both of my girls choose their birthdays without me having to worry. And their births were beautiful and peaceful too. X
WM – Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guilford, NHS Foundation Trust
I am so traumatised from the last birth, that I will never have any more children.
During the few days before I had my son, I was basically threatened with induction.
Throughout my pregnancy, despite baby measuring way off the centile charts, the midwives really forgot about me.
I care for my eldest son and when I told them I could not attend a routine appointment, one midwife shouted down the telephone at me that I was risking my baby’s health. Fast forward to two days before he was born – I woke up with contractions coming and going, and received a telephone call to inform me that I needed to go in to be induced.
I informed them I was in labour, had had a show last night/this morning and felt very much in early labour. I was categorically TOLD (not suggested) “If you are not in full blown labour by tomorrow, you WILL BE induced”. As a woman who carries a baby within your own body, how can someone else tell you they know your body better than you?
In the end I was pressured/threatened/forced into an induction. As a third time Mum, who categorically DID NOT want an induction, my wishes were completely disregarded. I was treated abhorrently.
The result of the wonderful induction was an emergency C-Section, loss of massive volume of blood, huge impact to my body (months down the line), both myself and my baby boy nearly dying and recovery was awful.
I couldn’t stand up straight for weeks after. My first birth was a straight forward vaginal birth, and the difference is massive.
Induction is used as a method of control, coercion and is being used against women – I detest the fact that it is a “routine” thing, forced on a woman, when you reach a certain time in your pregnancy.
I am so traumatised from the last birth, that I will never have any more children. If there is a valid medical reason why you NEED an induction, for your health, then I agree. But routine induction is traumatising and unnecessary.
This is not respect of the magic of labour, this is robbery of the gift of life.
It is the most precious gift to have a child inside your womb. Yet pressure to have an induction is something that should really be evaluated.
Once you are over your due date the pressure is on, yet this is not an exact date. For myself it was only after my induction, many, many months down the road that I found out from La Leche League that I could have held off longer.
My own midwife wanted to do another sweep before I was admitted for induction. Her wishes and mine were ignored. It was booked for me. Do not take lightly the fact you are taking on a massive amount of drugs.
I was 7 days over, 10 when I actually gave birth.
First night in hospital no sleep for noise etc. Second night, a few hours sleep with pethidine administered. Lots of tightenings and noisy, noisy ward.
Waters broke next day, later in evening, labour progressed. There was no room in delivery rooms so they put me in the birthing room, with a lovely birthing pool which they were too short staffed to be able to use.
I was told not to go on the bed in the room, just to wait in the room until they had room to move me. My contractions rapidly accelerated, two midwives happened to be walking by the suite, heard me labouring and came flying in.
They got me on the bed, I was in full labour and not dilated enough so I had to NOT PUSH even though the bloody drugs had made my body get to that point. They rushed me to labour room and after hours of being told not to push, my cervix was ready. But three nights of near zero sleep, rocking my leg back and fore as it was my only comfort, to constantly shake it during full labour, “DON’T PUSH” being shouted at me, had exhausted me.
Then suddenly “push, push” with your legs in stirrups, a doctor cutting you to pull your baby out as you are too whammed and lay on your back. Being stirruped when you give birth, it shouldn’t be. Pushing a body that is clearly saying, “not quite yet” is not on. Where is body wisdom in this.
This is not respect of the magic of labour, this is robbery of the gift of life. It is the most unnatural thing in what should be a totally honoured process.
I feel robbed of such a precious process.
I read all the stories after of honoured births, doulas. People need to have information, as hospitals carry on the same line. If this gets women asking questions, rather than accepting what the medical staff push you into then I will help. Inform people. Help those in front as it has happened to us.
Thank you for standing strong in this cause. I am happy to help, sharing is healing and other people listen when its someone who’s walked the path.
I had post traumatic stress (PTSD) and it triggered post-natal depression.
I was pressured into having an induction with my first child.
I ‘negotiated’ to hold off induction until 42 weeks. I wasn’t offered any expectant management.
I ended up birthing at 42+2 after breaking waters and having syntocin, with a forceps delivery and episiotomy. It was incredibly traumatic. I lost a lot of blood. I had post traumatic stress and it triggered post-natal depression.
The upside is that it made me passionate about women’s rights in childbirth – I went on to have two unassisted homebirths and now run a homebirth support group.
It was nearly 12 years ago. I still think about it though – some of the most triggering elements were when I felt completely disempowered or belittled.
KB – Homerton University Hospital, Hackney, East London, NHS Foundation Trust
Took a week for me to have him in the end, when we expected it to be so quick.
I was pushed into an induction at 38 weeks that resulted in 4 sweeps, pessary, gels, manually broken waters, a drip, and then an emergency c section as he was back to back and wasn’t progressing.
Took a week for me to have him in the end, when we expected it to be so quick.
This was four years ago with my first, I had low waters so they wanted him out, I’m not 100% sure why as he was a good weight. I only found out he was back to back when I was talking to midwives about my birth plan for my youngest!
I had no idea it could take so long, we were under the impression that the first attempt would take and we’d have him within 24 hours.
I had no idea about the low success rate with sweeps either or I’d have refused, they left me sore and bleeding and it didn’t progress things in the slightest. I had in my birth plan this time round that I didn’t want to be induced or have any sweeps at all.
We wanted my second to be as hands off as possible, unfortunately he wanted to come out extra early and I had him at 34 weeks!
You have to go maverick to get what you want then, which isn’t for everyone and we shouldn’t have to.
Pressured into induction at 40 weeks with first baby. Said my baby might have diabetes but didn’t test for it and I had only 1 sugar spike my entire pregnancy.
I had raised blood pressure that was being treated. Had two sweeps then pessary then syntocin. Laboured for 33 hours hypercontracting on gas and air.
Pressured to lie down and be monitored with clip to baby’s head. Got to 9 cm they didn’t think I could manage the rest. C section. Treated so badly afterwards I was in hospital for 3 weeks, 2 weeks of that against my will, misdiagnosed with a mental illness I didn’t have.
Left me with undiagnosed PTSD for 4 years which I dealt with during my subsequent pregnancy.
I went on to have two homebirths, one an unplanned freebirth. I think I could have managed the rest of that first labour. They have no faith in natural order and the power of women’s bodies and little respect for free choice and the effect of the removal of this on birth outcomes.
A leading teaching hospital nonetheless. I could have sued them but it would have consumed my life and I had a new baby so had to just get on with it.
In spite of everything though I did get over it. But I can’t get it back, the happy birth experience which they stole from me and my son. I feel for my son, who didn’t have the lovely calm entry to this world that his sisters did.
That’s a bit unfair I think. The sad thing is it happens all the time in varying degrees, mostly to first time mothers and mothers with extra medical issues which are used to limit their choices. You have to go maverick to get what you want then, which isn’t for everyone and we shouldn’t have to.
RW – King’s College Hospital, London, NHS Foundation Trust
How dare you have done that to me without my permission or indeed knowledge.
With my Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC) I changed hospitals from The Royal Glamorgan to UHW because I thought I’d have a more vbac friendly environment.
I got to 40+7 (by their dates, but actually 39+6 by mine) and had to fend off the offer of sweeps and lots of appointments to talk about induction options.
The next day I went into labour all by myself, hurray! When it was time to go in, I had a VE and was told I was only 4cm, which was fine but they said to leave my things in the room and go for a walk. But labour continued thick and fast at that point and I gave birth about 2 hours later.
I remember chatting with the MW afterwards about how fast that last part had gone and she said “oh yes, when I examined you, I gave everything a really good stretch!”. At the time, I was just happy to have my lovely newborn baby but now I think “WHAT THE FUCK”. “How dare you have done that to me without my permission or indeed knowledge. How much faith did you have in my body to do the work on its own”, which it did perfectly well. I’m still outraged.
I think it was because they knew my doula was on her way and didn’t want her to witness their shenanigans!
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I could change anything, it would be that midwives are trained to support women to make informed choices if overdue.
My son was born on 1st October, 10 days overdue and my third baby, with his brother and sister being 6 and 5 days overdue respectively, I was a bit unprepared for such a long wait!
Due to mental health issues and past experience of PND with my son, I was (and still am for a few more weeks) under the care of the Elan team.
I subsequently had home visits as frequently as needed, and don’t want to say anything against my midwife as her support has been really beneficial.
I was offered my first sweep at 38 weeks. I think this might be a standard approach from this team to women with anxiety issues, but as I felt informed about my birth choices and comfortable that baby was in the right place, this was declined.
I was offered another on my due date. I had intended to decline, and wanted an examination only, but just prior to this my midwife notified me that if I went over 40 plus 13 I couldn’t deliver on the MLU (midwife led unit).
This prospect filled me with dread, as I firmly believe the positive birth experience I had, with the after birth support on the MLU, prevented a recurrence of PND (post natal depression) with the birth of my daughter. I agreed to the sweep, in the hope it would expedite things, and had another a few days later.
I spoke to my midwife about induction, and said I wouldn’t agree to intervention but would like monitoring if it came to it, her response was that I would be pressured into it by the birth choices midwife.
This made my anxiety sky rocket, and we even considered a home birth with assistance of paramedics if required, as I was so fearful of the impact of this intervention upon my mental health. Thankfully though he arrived unaided, but this period put me, and my family through a lot of stress.
I don’t want to say anything against my midwife as I know she is only following guidelines, but if I could change anything, it would be that midwifes are trained to support women to make informed choices if overdue, rather than induction being the only option.
She Said “We will see” with a laugh.
And breathe. Midwife appointment, 41 weeks. I’ve just been told if I don’t go in the next 3 days I will NEED to be booked in for an induction. I said “no I’m OK thanks’. To which I had ‘we will see’ with a laugh. She said she will leave house visit til monday….continuing with “and we will discuss induction further”.
She actually commented “you’ve got no fear then” too.… I did very well and was a good girl and kept my mouth shut. What I wanted to say was “fear, why would I fear the most natural thing our body goes through to create life, a positive and amazing miracle as women we are given”.
More breathing (looks at triangle breathing).
Rang midwives this morning as they are due out and I really didn’t want to be pushed as i had been towards induction. The lady I spoke to was very reassuring. I explained I why I would rather not have to deal with that midwife again. She said the midwife coming out to me today has similar views, it is completely my decision and I shouldn’t feel pressured. Has calmed me down from a bit of a wobbly morning.
Samantha Says – Support for your decision making.
I would strongly suggest any women who is being told/suggested to have induction reads my blog post and book review Inducing Labour – Making Informed Decisions and reads the Dr. Sarah Wickham book linked in it (I have 2 copies), asks a lot of questions, using the TBRAIN acronym and makes an informed decision as to whether it is the right path for you, your family and your baby.
If faced with pressure and staff who are not listening – you can request your notes and leave the room and if the notes are not forthcoming – tell them you will wait outside until they bring a health professional who is prepared to take your informed views on board or leave without them.
You do not have to listen to inappropriate, coercive language. Am I Allowed, also by AIMs is also an important read. AIMS and Birthrights are also able to help you if you feel you are not being supported in your chosen path, as can a Doula.
You do not have to be induced, you can stop the induction at any post and move to a caesarean birth. You do not have to attend meetings you do not wish to attend or to be lectured by increasingly senior staff, you have the right to make informed choices for your body, your baby and your birth.
You can also request to speak with the Head of Midwifery, the most senior midwife in the hospital, who will be more supportive of your informed choices and ultimately has the power to ensure you are supported in the path you are choosing as well as tackling the lack of informed consent you are being offered and addressing any training issues for staff around informed consent – change needs to happen from within.
If you feel you are being coerced and not listened to feed back to the Head of Midwifery and cc in PALS (your trusts complaints team), contact details should be readily available on their website.
I keep hearing about women who are requesting to be induced, these women are not those women – the 2 are not comparable and all induction should involve fully informed consent.
Positive induction can and does happen – I also blog about it – but it only happens from a place of fully informed consent and mutual respect and co-operation.
That some women want to be induced is no reason to treat others badly.
In a climate of epidemic of induction, of 40% induction rates, it is hardly surprising that women see this as an entirely normal part of birth and not the serious intervention it is.
I also hear of women who want to decline induction, either before the process starts or mid induction, requesting caesarean birth and being decline and even threatened with social services to ensure compliance.
Social Services have no say in a woman’s birth plans – this is immoral and unethical and should not be happening and even more so mid birth. I have no words for my opinion on this.
One story like the ones listed here, is one too many and until it stops I will keep speaking up and out on behalf of women who cannot always speak for themselves.
Samantha Gadsden walks with women on their life’s journeys. She is an experienced Doula, based close to Cardiff in South Wales, mother to 4 children and wife to Eddie, more information can be found on her facebook page, Samantha Gadsden Doula and her website, Caerphilly Doula. SOS Doula, Telephone and online support is always available.
If you are interested in writing a guest blog or sharing a life or birth story please feel free to contact her HERE.
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