‘Doctors made me feel overdramatic – hours later my baby died’

A mum has lost her first baby after repeated calls and visits to a hospital maternity unit when she went into labour, an inquest has heard.

Nicole Ditchfield told the inquest she was made to feel “overdramatic” by the medical staff, Manchester Evening News reported.

Her baby son Luca died following a severe brain injury, which the family blame on a lack of oxygen before birth.

An inquest into the tragedy heard that Miss Ditchfield visited the maternity unit twice but was told to go home.

Furthermore, the mum claimed she made 13 unanswered phone calls to the unit as her contractions grew stronger, she became sick and started bleeding.

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Speaking to Coroner Chris Morris, the mum said: “I was made to feel like I was being a bit dramatic as it was my first baby.”

During her third visit to the unit, midwives struggled to detect the baby’s heartbeat, resulting in an emergency Caesarean section.

The infant sustained brain damage and his parents took the heart-breaking decision to withdraw him from life support.

He died on January 24, 2022, in the maternity unit of Tameside General Hospital, one day after his birth.

Miss Ditchfield, a business administrator from Ashton-under-Lyne, reported a normal healthy pregnancy and was at full term when she went into labour in January 2022.

The parents told Stockport Coroners’ Court on Monday they had a “reassuring” visit to the maternity unit on January 7 when a scan showed Luca was “moving well”.

The mum was booked in for an induction on January 24 but she called the unit at 6.45am on January 22 as she believed she went into labour.

Miss Ditchfield said she was advised to try to sleep or have a bath and take paracetamol for the pain, the inquest heard.

However, the contractions kept coming back so she called the unit again and she was advised not to call back until the contractions were happening every four minutes.

She called back again and reported blood loss as well, which resulted in her being told to come in.

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At the unit, the staff told her “everything’s fine” and she was told to report back only when the contractions were coming every three minutes for at least an hour.

At home, new symptoms, including being sick, broken water and continuous contractions prompted her to call the unit and go in again but “the midwife did not seem to believe” her water was broken and the mum was sent back home, Miss Ditchfield told the inquest.

Miss Ditchfield said that she then vowed to wait until she was experiencing contractions every three minutes before calling the unit again, as she didn’t want to “bother the midwives” even though by then the contractions were “very painful”.

The following day, the inquest heard the mum made 13 unanswered phone calls to the maternity unit as she became increasingly concerned.

“Eventually I got through but I was told it didn’t seem like I was in active labour,” she told the hearing. “I was made to feel I was being over-dramatic.”

The mum then attended the maternity unit where a midwife who tried to record the baby’s heart rate saw the “numbers dropping on the machine”.

Miss Ditchfield was rushed into an emergency Caesarean section but the baby had suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and it had taken 40 minutes to resuscitate him.

The doctors apologised and said they “could not do more” and the couple made the “awful decision” to remove Luca from ventilation.

The inquest heard that a report by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) uncovered a number of alleged failings at the maternity unit, including a “local perception” that a mother’s contractions had to be once every three minutes for at least an hour before “established labour” could be diagnosed. This “delayed” Nicole’s diagnosis that she was in established labour, according to the HSIB.

The inquest resumes in the morning and is due to last all week. Express.co.uk contacted the trust for a comment but they said they are unable to comment at this time as the inquest is ongoing.

“A full statement will be provided upon conclusion of the inquest,” it added.

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