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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 00:39 GMT
'I started to doubt my own body'
Zack at a few days old
Sam had a bad experience with the birth of her son, Zack
An independent report has highlighted a huge variation in the quality of maternity care across England.

Trusts in London came out particularly badly, something that Sam Brown experienced firsthand when she gave birth to her first child.

She had been due to go into the midwife unit at her local hospital in East London but when she went into labour, staff shortages meant she ended up on the main labour ward.

She was then left to her own devices.

Feeling the need to push, Sam sent her fiancÚ, Adam, to fetch a midwife.

"I will never forget this. She said: 'You're in a dream world girl, it's your first child, it's going to be hours'.

A lot of it comes down to who you get on the day but it shouldn't be like that

"They didn't talk to me like I was a real person, the fact I wanted help was a real inconvenience to them."

A passing cleaner had to tell her how to use the gas and air and the entire hospital was "filthy", she says.

Fear

After about 40 minutes of being left in agony and "absolutely terrified", Adam called for another midwife who had just come on shift.

It was then discovered the baby's heart rate had started to drop and the consultant was called.

He said she should have been pushing, as she had thought.

She was put on a drip to hasten labour and baby Zack was born shortly after.

"It was really frightening and I started to doubt my own body.

"It was very hard for Adam and afterwards he said he was really scared for me."

Fortunately, Zack, now aged three, was a healthy baby, but had a swollen head because he had been stuck for so long.

When Sam became pregnant again, her experience led her to choose a home birth.

In the end she had to be rushed into hospital to give birth to her daughter because of complications

But the experience, this time in another maternity unit, was "worlds apart" she says.

"The difference in the attitudes of the staff was amazing - they acted like you were in the room when they spoke to you.

"One of the most striking things was these were neighbouring hospitals."

She knew the hospital where she had Zack did not have the best record but did not want to risk travelling further away to a different maternity unit.

"A lot of it comes down to who you get on the day but it shouldn't be like that," she said.



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