"An unsuccessful VBAC ending in emergency c-section at Box Hill Maternity."

About: Box Hill Hospital / Maternity Service

(as the patient),

Some months ago my son was born by emergency c-section after attempting a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Caesarean). My daughter was born emergency c-section 3 years earlier due to what I was told at the time was “because her head was turned to one side in an unusual position, so she was stuck and showing signs of stress”. When the surgeon came to see me while in labour with my son, she remembered me from my previous time there. She mentioned how things were playing out the same as last time because my pelvis was just too small for my big babies. ? ? ? Had I known this earlier I would not have attempted a VBAC and put my body through what I thought was going to be the death of me.

While in theatre it turned out that all the agony I was in during my 3rd trimester, which was making it hard at times to walk or even stand was because of scar tissue from the previous c-section that had glued my bladder between my uterus and abdominal wall. I had mentioned this agonising on and off pain at every antenatal appointment at the hospital and was told, “It’s normal to feel more pain the second time”. I insisted it didn’t feel right but always felt I was being brushed off. I would leave my appointments in tears. I needed a catheter for a couple of days after the second c-section to allow my bladder to recover from the trauma.

The day after the c-section I had visitors come and see me. A junior Dr had come in to check on me and go over my chart. During the conversation he said “So it’s mentioned here that it’s advised to not have any more children after this". (?) I had no idea what he was talking about. I felt sick, sad and embarrassed as my visitors were listening to all of this. I told him, “No I didn’t know that” and he couldn’t even tell me why as he didn’t know himself. This happened with a couple more Drs/Midwives that I asked about it afterwards. I could not get a straight answer from anyone and nothing was ever put in writing for future reference.

Two confusing, painful and cloudy-minded days after the c-section, they said I needed a blood transfusion. I was given 2 units worth of blood which apparently wasn’t even enough but I understand that legally that’s all you can give. I don’t understand why this wasn’t done after surgery. My husband said I looked like I was on my death bed. He was so afraid for me.

I was finally told by a Dr or maybe it was the surgeon that the reason for no more children was because of complications during c-section. I was still so confused and out of it from exhaustion and medication that I didn’t have the energy to take it further at the time. Still to this day I don’t know why they said this and I was given nothing in writing about it. I want to know why. I was clearly in no state to have been paying attention to what anyone was telling me or even remember any of it. Everyone was always in such a rush. They seemed understaffed all the time. The one positive I can say is that the midwives were so kind and compassionate with me at all times. I felt so sorry for them. They worked so hard.

Rewinding back before the labour, my experience was also bad. One Dr that I saw during the time was so cold and heartless, they had no bedside manner. They told me that because I had an under active thyroid that I needed to have a 30 week scan because the baby might not be growing properly. Scared the crap out of me for no reason. I had told a midwife after this about the Dr and she told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about them because they would no longer be there. It wasn’t the first time they had been complained about BUT…. Guess who my next app was with? That same Dr, who this time was on their best behaviour and much nicer. Guessing they had been warned.

When I attended my 36 week appointment I was told that someone should have booked me in for an elective c-section which is standard procedure when attempting a VBAC in case of complications or if I go over due date. Well there was no room left to book me in the diary apart from on my daughter’s birthday. Oh well. Too bad. If I didn’t want that date then I could always book on a date that was 11 DAYS after my due date! ! I cried and cried as this was not my fault and they made me feel so stupid. I was a mess and afraid for the baby too.

I still have flash backs of how horrible labour was and how hard it was to bring my boy into this world. Could the complications have been prevented if they knew what was going on inside me or even had noted on my last labour at the same hospital? Would they then have advised me not to attempt a VBAC because it was too dangerous knowing my pelvis was too small in the first place? Then maybe I would not have been so unwell afterwards and things would have been planned better. I could have been prepared. All I want from this is more information on what happened to me. How dangerous is it for me to fall pregnant again. What are the risks involved? ? I want answers. You can’t just tell a woman that and send her on her way without anything in writing.

I would like answers to the following questions specifically:

i) Could the complications have been prevented if they knew what was going on inside me?

ii) Would they then have advised me not to attempt a VBAC because it was too dangerous?

iii) How dangerous is it for me to fall pregnant again? What are the risks involved?

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Responses

Response from Alan Lilly, Chief Executive, Eastern Health

picture of Alan Lilly

Dear “Mother of 2”,

Thank you for sharing your story on Patient Opinion. You have raised a number of issues and I am alarmed to read about some of our interactions with our staff. I am also sorry to read that you have probably been having concerns over a long period of time. However, having read your story, I have no doubt that we can address your concerns and I think the best way to do that, would be to arrange a meeting between you and our senior midwifery service staff. They will be able to take you through these issues in a skilled and considered way and respond to any questions, queries or concerns which you may have. If you would like to do this, please email me at alan.lilly@easternhealth.org.au and I will gladly arrange this for you. In the meantime, please accept my sincere apologies for having left you feeling this way.

Kind regards, Alan Lilly

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