Mother's heartbroken over stillborn son

Mother’s heartbreak after her baby was stillborn just two days after she told bungling NHS medics that she could no longer feel her son moving

  • Helen Brotherton, full term with her first child, told medics son was not moving
  • But health staff did not induce labour until days later and her son was stillborn 
  • Isle of Wight NHS Trust said it is ‘truly sorry’ for failings that led to baby’s death

A mother has today told of her heartbreak after her baby was delivered stillborn, just two days after mother told medics she could not feel him moving.

Helen Brotherton, from the Isle of Wight, was full term with her first child when she rushed to hospital last June after days of warning medics she was worried her son was not moving. 

After two earlier appointments where staff missed warning signs, she was induced and her son Troy was stillborn.

Mrs Brotherton, a baby room manager, said NHS staff didn’t seem concerned at any point despite her concerns.

She said: ‘Having to leave Troy knowing we wouldn’t be able to bring him home to start our new lives together is something I don’t think we’ll ever get over.’

Her husband Ed said: ‘It’s difficult not to feel upset and angry by what happened and not think of how Troy would be growing and developing if he had not have been let down.’

The Isle of Wight NHS Trust said they are ‘truly sorry for the failings that led to Troy’s death’ and have since changed their practices.

Stillbirths – when a baby is born dead after six months of being in the womb – occur in around one per 200 births in England. 

Helen Brotherton, pictured with her husband Ed, said: ‘Having to leave Troy knowing we wouldn’t be able to bring him home to start our new lives together is something I don’t think we’ll ever get over’

Isle of Wight NHS Trust said they are ‘truly sorry for the failings that led to Troy’s death’

Mrs Brotherton was 38 weeks pregnant with her son when she attended a routine appointment on June 3 last year.

She told a midwife that her she couldn’t feel her son moving as much. But despite her concerns, she was not told to attend hospital.

Expectant mothers should start to feel their baby move between 16 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, but first-time mothers may not feel movements until after 20 weeks.

They should then feel their babies move right up to and during labour, but there is not set number of movements that should be felt each day.

If an unborn baby is unwell, they will be less active than usual, so feeling less movement could signal a problem. 

WHAT IS STILLBIRTH? 

A stillbirth is when a baby is born dead after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy. 

It happens in around one in every 200 births in England.

If the baby dies before 24 completed weeks, it’s known as a miscarriage or late foetal loss.

The NHS advises mothers to contact their midwife or doctor straightaway if they are worried about their baby, such as if it is moving less than usual.

Expectant mothers should not wait until the next day, as reduced movement can be a sign something is wrong and needs to be checked, the health service said.

Some stillbirths happen due to complications with the placenta, a birth defect or the mother’s heart.

But in some cases no cause can be identified.

If a baby has died in the womb, mothers may be able to give birth naturally or may have to be induced.

Not all stillbirths can be prevented, but not smoking, avoiding alcohol and drugs during pregnancy and not sleeping on your back after 28 weeks can reduce the risk. 

Source: NHS

Mrs Brotherton phoned St Mary’s Hospital’s maternity ward two days later concerned that her son was moving even less.

After checking her child’s heart rate, medics told Mrs Brotherton to go home.

But her legal team said that because she was overdue and complained of reduced movement twice, she should have been escalated to more senior doctors and induced.

On June 7, Mrs Brotherton returned to hospital concerned about her son’s reduced movements, but health staff could not find his heart beat.

She was induced and Troy was delivered stillborn the following day. 

The trust admitted Mrs Brotherton was not correctly risk assessed during her routine appointment days earlier and she should have been told to go to hospital straight away. 

Mrs Brotherton said: ‘We were overjoyed by the prospect of being parents.

‘It was something we had always wanted, and because of certain personal health issues, felt incredibly lucky to be expecting Troy.

‘I was really worried that Troy’s movements had started to reduce. However, at no stage did it feel like staff seemed concerned.

‘I tried not to fear the worst and stay positive but it was heartbreaking when we were told that we had lost Troy.

‘Ed and I got to spend some time with him in hospital but it wasn’t enough.’

Mr Brotherton, an operations manager, added: ‘Knowing things would probably have been different if Helen and Troy had received the care they deserved is the hardest thing to accept. 

‘We would give anything to turn back the clock and for things to be different but we know that’s not possible. 

‘All we can do now is share what happened to us to make other parents aware and urge hospitals to review their procedures and improve care where needed.

‘We also want to let others going through the same emotions as us following the loss of a baby that it’s not their fault. They don’t have to suffer alone. Baby Loss Awareness Week is an important reminder that there is help and support available.’

Justine Spencer, a partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell who advised the couple, said the couple are ‘understandably traumatised’ and their experience is a ‘stark reminder of the devastation families can be left to face as a result of avoidable failings in maternity care’.

She added: ‘While nothing can make up for their loss we’re pleased that we’ve been able to provide the family with the answers they deserve. 

‘We thank the Trust for its swift admissions which has spared Helen and Ed the ordeal of having to prolong their case.

‘We’re now working with the Trust to fully resolve the issues identified in the case so Helen and Ed can try and look to the future the best they can.

‘However, it’s vital that lessons are learned to improve patient care for others. We’ll continue to campaign to improve maternity safety.’

A spokesperson for Isle of Wight NHS Trust said: ‘We are truly sorry for the failings that led to Troy’s death.

‘Nothing we can say can take away the pain felt by his family, but we have worked closely with them to ensure that lessons have been learned from this tragedy.

‘We can confirm that we have made changes and have now implemented the latest national Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle and have changed our practices accordingly.’

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