The patient aged 27, was a mother of one and had an unplanned pregnancy for her second child. The pregnancy was fairly straightforward although she did suffer pre-eclampsia and had an induced birth. She had a difficult labour without any pain relief as well as an episiotomy.
This interview has been sourced from healthtalkonline.org, award-winning research into patient experiences in conjunction with the Health Experience Research Group at Oxford University, UK.
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It was easier to give up smoking when she became pregnant, and she has not started smoking again.
I mean, I'm quite a calm person and, and I was quite calm for the whole, the whole thing and I didn't really think about it too much. I kind of just got on with my life and, obviously, I gave up smoking and drinking and tea and coffee and, you know, didn't eat all the things that you shouldn't eat and that was general, really all, all I did.
How much did you smoke before you became pregnant?
I used to smoke, I wasn't a heavy smoker, about 10, 15 a day. I've given up completely now, so.
So did you give up when you found out you were pregnant?
The day I found out I was pregnant I gave it up.
Tell me about that, was that hard?
No, it wasn't because I've wanted to give up for ages and to actually have a reason to give up smoking was a good thing, definitely. And yeah, yeah, it was good because, obviously, I don't smoke now either so it's brilliant. And, and also giving up drinking, that was the hardest bit [laughing]. I mean you can have a glass of wine here and there but that's, that's it, so, that wasn't too bad, really.
She valued regular appointments with her midwives and the reassurance and information they gave her.
Tell me about the midwives and the, your experience of being cared for by the midwives?
Yeah, like I say, they, they were brilliant. They were really good, they gave me all the information that I needed and they you know, told, told you everything you needed to know and it's just nice to go in for your check-ups and know you were going in for your check-ups to, so they could tell you everything was in the right place and, you know, everything was going fine and there's nothing wrong with you. Because you can become quite paranoid about things being wrong and but no, they really put my mind at ease and they, they were very good.
Did you get paranoid occasionally?
Tell me what you got paranoid about?
Just, you just think, oh it's not moving today or, you know, there must be something wrong or just general, just generally that, actually, the, the movement thing, when they start moving at, what is it? 5 months or whatever, 4 or 5 months, that was when I started to become more paranoid because, you know, oh, he's not moving today, what's wrong? Blah, blah, blah, and I was waiting for my midwife appointments so I, you know, so they could confirm the heartbeat and, you know, everything was fine but no, they, they were good. And I think they should, shouldn't, because I heard that they were trying to stop, trying to not to have so many midwife appointments in, in the future. I don't know if that's still going on but I don't think they should do that, definitely not.
Especially in a first pregnancy women need a lot of advice and reassurance, but she did not want to bother the midwives between appointments.
Is there any advice that you would offer to health professionals, midwives or GPs or whomever, about how to be, you know, about what pregnant women need that they may not be getting?
No, not, I mean, like I say, they need to, to definitely, to see their midwives as often as, as they can, really, I think that's, that's very important. And you know, probably more often than, than you do actually go in the, in the beginning. Because in the beginning you're only going every, once every 2 months to see, for your midwife check-up and I think you should be able to go when you like, really. That would be good.
How did you feel in between appointments?
I just felt that I wanted to go more often just to make, just to make sure everything's okay and I think especially with your first baby. I think when you've had a baby and you know, you've been through the experience and you know what's going to happen to you, you need, you know, you know what all these feelings and stuff that are going on. But yeah, like I say, especially with your first pregnancy, I think you need extra midwife attention. With the second one or third one or whatever, you're a bit of an old hat at it so I don't think you need it so much.
Were you able to ring up your midwife in between appointments?
You could do, yeah, yeah you could do.
Did you ever do that?
I didn't, no.
Because I just, I feel that all the people that work on, on the NHS, for the NHS, are very, very busy and I just, you know, nothing was wrong with me, nothing was wrong with me ever. So I didn't feel the, the urge to, to, to ring her and, you know, for no reason, so.
Were there ever times when there was just something that was bothering you and you would have quite liked to be able to speak to somebody? Or just be reassured?
Yeah, yeah, there was, there was times, like I say, if I'd had a couple of days of no movement or, you know, a day of no movement and you're supposed to have 10 movements a day and I'd only had 6 that day or something, [laughing] I'd think, ah. But it's just something that, you know, you, you are more paranoid about, about things and, like I say, especially with your first baby.
Antenatal classes were not very useful. She found some of the activities a bit strange.
Did you go to antenatal classes at all?
I did, yes.
What were those like, tell me about those?
They were okay. They didn't really tell me anything I didn't know already. I mean it was nothing that you couldn't read out of a book or, or anything like that. I wouldn't suggest to anybody to go to them, to be honest.
Right, so what was going on at the classes, can you describe it to me?
There was a lot of, it was mostly like trying, for you to make friends with other couples with babies, basically. That was, that seemed to be the main aim, as far as I could tell. And lots of sort of group activities and silly games and, and things like that.
What kind of group activities?
Just like communication activities and I mean, obviously, the theme was, was pregnancy and giving birth, and lots of word association games and [laughing] things like that. It was quite strange.
What was the point of that?
I don't, [laughing] it was like pregnant, words about pregnancy and I don't know, it was quite a strange thing.
Did they explain why?
Oh yeah, they did, they did. It was - oh God, like she had a thing with missing words and you had to put the words in where you thought they should be, you know, and obviously about, about pregnancy and, and oh God, really, I can't really remember [laughing].
What, so to see if you knew…
what that meant?
Yeah, and what the words were and, you know, it was, I suppose it was fairly, fairly interesting but, like I say, I wouldn't, you know, suggest it to anybody else to go, to be honest. Even if, on a first pregnancy.
Books were a good source of information. Talking to other women with babies also helped.
But I only knew these, I only knew these things from reading lots of books, I got lots of books from the library and got given lots of books and I read a lot and so it's, like I say, if, for somebody who doesn't want to read lots of books and, and find out information that way, then possibly it would be a good thing to do. But like I say, I never learned anything [at antenatal classes].
Did you, were you just very enthusiastic to go and get books and read them?
Yeah, I was, I wanted to know everything [laughing] about what was going to happen to me and all the different stages of pregnancy and what was going on in, inside me and what he'd look like now and so, yeah, I was, I was enthusiastic to read and find out information.
Was it quite easy to find good books?
Yeah, yeah, I mean even, like I say, the library had a good selection of books. I brought a good, got a few books from the bookshop, and I got lent books from people and so, yeah, it was, it was easy, definitely.
Did you look for information on the Internet at all?
No, because I don't know how to use it [laughing].
No, I would, my boyfriend is really good at that so if I'd wanted to I could have done but I didn't, no.
Did you talk to other people who'd had babies previously about their experience?
Was that helpful or unhelpful?
Very, very helpful.
Tell me about some of the ways in which that was helpful?
Well, one of my best friends has had a baby and just - I work with her as well - and just, I was asking her questions all the time about, you know, what happens and it was very helpful, definitely. It's good to know people who've had babies if you're having one yourself, definitely.
Can you give me some examples of things that you wanted to know that it was really useful to hear from someone who'd had a baby?
I really, I wanted to know about the birth [laughing]. But she didn't tell me too much about that, thankfully. That, no, just general, just general health questions, really, and should I being doing this now and should it be like this now and should my ankles look like this now? And things like that really.
Her midwife spotted symptoms of pre-eclampsia and the baby was induced next day. She was very scared, but the care in hospital was excellent.
Was it important to you to be able to go every 6 weeks?
Yeah, it was. And then towards the end you go every 2 weeks and then every week and, actually, my midwife spotted I had pre-eclampsia in the last 4 weeks of my pregnancy. And my midwife spotted it, because I, actually I went to my GP then for some blood tests and it didn't get through, the blood tests, by the time it had come through I was near the end of my pregnancy and I'd had pre-eclampsia 4 weeks beforehand. And, and my midwife appointment, they'd, they'd spotted it and sent me straight to the hospital and I was induced the next day. And so that was, you know, they really sort of, sort of helped me then, definitely.
Did you feel any different when you started to have the pre-eclampsia?
Not at all, no. I mean I was swollen anyway and my feet were swollen and my face was swollen but I thought that was quite normal. And also, I was working full-time to the Saturday and I had him on the Tuesday and I don't think that helped at all. I thought that's why I was swollen because I was, I'm a hairdresser and work, you know, on my feet. So that was, that was kind of it, really. I didn't have any symptoms at all but because, obviously it's high blood pressure, that's the main, the main symptom and you don't notice that at all, so.
Did you know what pre-eclampsia was?
I did, yeah, because I'd been to my antenatal classes and, you know, I'd read a lot of books and, you know, all that sort of business so I, you know, I was, I did vaguely know what it was [laughing].
Tell me how the, what happened at the midwife's appointment when they discovered that you had pre-eclampsia?
I went for your usual the old wee test and blood pressure and she had a poke around and, basically, they, they found it from the urine sample. And she literally, she literally phoned the hospital that minute and got me in there straightaway and, like I say, I was induced the next day so they were really quick.
How did she explain to you that you had pre-eclampsia?
Oh my God, basically just told me [laughing] pre, pre-eclampsia, basically. Because, you know, you, I knew, I knew what it was, so, but yeah, she just said, “You've, you've got pre-eclampsia." I need to, to go up to the hospital straightaway.
How did you feel when she said, “You have to go to the hospital now”?
Very scared, yeah, I was very, very nervous and my partner was at work. I was with one of my friends who was also pregnant at the time and she took me up to the hospital and I was, I was in, I was a mess [laughing].
Were you? Could you tell me about that, what happened, how were you feeling?
Just really, really scared, really scared. The, the fact that I knew I was going to be having my baby the next day rather than it happening naturally. And very, very anxious, definitely very anxious and, and worried about it. And just wanted my partner to be with me and, and to get it over and done with, [laughing] really.
And what happened in the hospital, what kind of care did you receive?
They were brilliant, again they were, they were really good. They took my blood pressure again and, you know, did all, did all the tests and they said that they would get me in the next day to be induced and they were all very calm and, you know, made me very calm. And then my partner arrived and I felt better then as well and, you know, a couple, after a couple of hours I was fine, I was alright, I sorted myself out. But they were very good, really good. And it was also, it was over Christmas as well so, Christmas Eve he was born so I was in hospital all over Christmas, 5 days and it was actually quite a nice Christmas, believe it or not [laughing]. And the, like I say, again, the care at the hospital was, was brilliant.
What was good about it, can you think?
They were just, just really on the case. They were taking my blood pressure all the time, you know, making, I got all the drugs and everything and making sure that I was okay. And they actually taught, you know, I was, I tried to breastfeed in the beginning and they were showing, you know, really trying to show me how to do that and everything, how to bath him, how to do everything. So I was really quite clued up by the time I got home because I was in there for quite a while.
She was in so much pain she could not keep still enough for an epidural, and also had a painful episiotomy.
They put this jelly up inside you and, basically, that brings on the contractions, brings, makes you contract straightaway. So I was contracting straight away and that wasn't too bad. And they were really, really busy, I remember, and the midwife kept buzzing off and leaving me, me and my partner. And sometimes we were left like a couple of hours at a time, which wasn't too good. I wasn't impressed about that bit, actually. And yeah, the contractions, they obviously got more and more stronger as the day went on and the birth itself, because, because I was induced, the contractions started to get quickly, more quickly than we thought and I really wanted to have - oh God, what was it called? A - oh, the pain relief when they inject you in the back, what that's called?
Epidural, yeah, and I really wanted an epidural and by the time the anaesthetist had come round and to do it, because they were so busy, it was too late, basically. And he was trying and trying, he tried to put the needle in my back about 10 times and it's a big, thick old needle and I just couldn't keep still for him to do it because I was contracting too quickly. So in the end I had to have him naturally. I didn't like the gas and air at all and I thought it was horrible so I, I couldn't, couldn't have that either. It made me feel sick. And yeah, so like I say, he come, he come out naturally and it was quite painful.
So you had no pain relief at all?
No pain relief at all and they had to, to cut me all the way to my bottom, basically, and that was quite horrific. But the actual birth itself didn't, didn't hurt. It was the contractions and this guy trying to put needles in my back [laughing]. That was the most painful thing, definitely. And also afterwards, it took an hour and a half for my placenta to come away and I had various people tugging on it and injecting me and oh, that, and that was the worst bit, actually, the stitches afterwards and the placenta, trying to remove the placenta. That was definitely the worst bit and that, that was it, really. But I'm sure people have had worse pregnancies but that seemed quite bad [laughing]. Not pregnancies, births, that seemed quite, quite bad to me for a first one. I just wish I had pain relief. That would have been much better, I think, definitely.
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Source: healthtalkonline.org (Pregnancy, age 25-30, interview 10)
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Last reviewed: February 2013