Terrified mum forced to give birth at home after maternity unit is axed at local hospital

A petrified mum feared she was going to die after being forced to give birth at home with no medical assistance due to a lack of beds and midwives.

Polly Hurst, 26, gave birth to her daughter Clementine with the help of partner Matt Taylor, 25, after they called 999 and paramedics failed to arrive in time.

Three months into her pregnancy, she had told Peterborough City Hospital that she wanted a home birth due to a traumatic first birth.

The mum-of-two arranged for a midwife to come to her house in Stamford, Lincs.

But just days before her due date, there were no midwives and the birthing centre had shut due to staff shortages.

Ms Hurst said: “I was terrified. It’s easy to look back now and reflect that everything’s turned out well, but at the time I thought I was going to die from the labour.

“When you’re going through something like childbirth, it should not be traumatic. But it was.

“Matt was incredible. He had never seen a birth before. To be asked to deliver your own child is daunting, but he was the calmest person.”

Ms Hurst had opted for a home birth after suffering severe anxiety when she gave birth to her first child Caden, now three.

She said: “I suffer with anxiety and it was exacerbated there so when I fell pregnant again, I knew I couldn’t go through that.

“We both loved the idea of a home birth and let my midwife know that was our plan almost straightaway.”

Yet, four days before her due date, Peterborough City Hospital contacted Ms Hurst saying that midwife services for home births had been suspended.

She was suggested several further afield options some 60 miles away in Coventry and Kings Lynn, in Norfolk, but they were all too far.

“We said we weren’t prepared to travel that far,” Ms Hurst said.

“If it’s a quick labour you are in a lot of trouble with that. But I was trying not to panic, and the baby wasn’t showing any signs of coming”I feel really let down by the hospital.

“They had an option there to support us, but didn’t.”

Ms Hurst said she does not blame the midwives who are “all completely overwhelmed to the point of breaking down.”

Even during the birth in July, the mum said she could not get hold of the hospital.

“We tried to treat it like a normal morning but the contractions began coming,” she said.

“So quickly, I rang the hospital again and said ‘I can’t cope with this, please can I come in?'”

After an hour’s wait for a callback, the couple called paramedics only to receive an offer of a bed at the Huntingdon Hospital minutes later.

Polly added: “I said ‘if I leave now I will give birth in the car’ so my partner was talked through the process by a call handler.

Partner Matt, an assistant physiotherapist, said: “It was scary to say the least.

“If I showed panic, it would make the situation worse so I had to keep all that in. Inside it was horrifying, but externally you have to put on a brave face.”

An hour into the call, Clementine was born, weighing 7lb 7oz, just 20 minutes before paramedics arrived.

Ms Hurst added: “It was a miracle because there are so many things that can go wrong with birth.

“I’m unbelievably grateful that things worked out for me and my family and pray that it works out for others.”

Jo Bennis, chief nurse at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Peterborough City Hospital, said they could not comment on individual cases because of patient confidentiality.

But she apologised to Ms Hurst for her “poor standard of care”, saying they always strive to give the “best possible care”.

The chief nurse added: “Our hospitals are not alone in experiencing staffing shortages and this was something that we experienced back in the summer.

“However, I would like to reassure expectant women this is not the situation now.

“There has recently been an ongoing recruitment drive within our maternity department, which has seen a number of midwives already starting with us. “