I gave birth to a beautiful boy but suffered many dark months and operations due to hospital failings

A mum who suffered a severe injury during birth says her delayed care left her 'devastated.'

Ashley Roper, 37, suffered a buttonhole tear on her perineum while she gave birth to her son Albi. Doctors didn't seek the opinion of a surgeon before attempting to repair the injury and she was discharged from Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Four days later, Ashley was readmitted and doctors noticed that a gap had developed in her perineum and they suggested she should have repair surgery. But she was instead advised to do pelvic floor exercises and undergo physiotherapy, which meant she continued to suffer from urinary incontinence and wind symptoms.

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The payroll specialist has had seven surgeries following Albie's birth to fix the problem because surgery to repair the tear kept failing to work. She said: "When you go into hospital to have a child you never expect this kind of thing to happen.

"When I was initially sent home after giving birth to Albi I didn’t feel right. I was surprised when I was sent home for a second time with the advice I was given but I didn’t think I had any reasons to doubt what I was being told.

"However, my symptoms continued, not only for a few weeks but months. The longer they went on the more they affected me, not just physically but emotionally.

"I suffered discomfort as well as embarrassment as to what I was going through. I was desperate for my symptoms to stop and felt my life was just a series of hospital appointments and operations.

"Each time I hoped surgery would put an end to what I was going through. It was devastating to then be told the repair surgery hadn’t worked.

"It felt like I was back at square one every time."

Ashley gave birth to Albi in June 2017 and had her first repair surgery in the following March, but continued to suffer from symptoms. She had a stoma fitted a month later and underwent a second repair surgery in September 2018.

She was due to have her stoma reversed in December 2018 but she woke up from anaesthetic to find she still had it as the repair surgery hadn't worked again. Ashley was finally referred to a specialist at another hospital for a fourth repair surgery in October 2019 and she had her stoma reversed in March 2020.

She was then forced to go through a seventh operation in April 2022, to help combat urinary incontinence. She is no longer incontinent or suffers staining but continues to suffer from constipation for which she requires medication.

Ashley, of Heckmondwike, said: "I went from being a resilient, independent woman to needing significant help. I needed large periods of time off work and felt like I was missing out on special time bonding with Albi because of my condition.

"While my friends were meeting in the park and attending baby groups, I was barely able to leave the house. After many dark months to be told that the fourth repair surgery had worked was such a relief.

"I’m still not right and am at risk of developing complications in the future, but I’m learning to adapt and regain more of my life. It's taken me many years to come to terms with and find the courage to speak about what happened to me.

"The issue of birth trauma is still relatively taboo, but I hope by speaking out I can help other women. Nobody should have to go through such an experience alone as help and support is out there."

Following her ordeal, Ashley instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care under Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. The trust admitted a breach of duty and that they should have diagnosed the gap in her perineum and offered repair surgery when she returned to hospital.

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Irwin Mitchell has now secured Ashley an undisclosed settlement to fund the ongoing support and rehabilitation she requires following her injury. Rebecca Tramaseur, the specialist medical negligence lawyer representing Ashley, 'firmly believes' her illness could have been avoided if she had 'appropriate treatment.'

She said: "The last few years and coming to terms with the life-changing injury and symptoms Ashley has suffered has been incredibly difficult for not only her but her family.

"The hospital trust has admitted worrying issues in the care it provided to Ashley. We and Ashley firmly believe that if she had received appropriate treatment at the outset, many of the problems she has had to face could have been avoided.

"While nothing can make up for her ordeal, we’re pleased that we’ve been able to secure this settlement which will fund the specialist ongoing support Ashley needs to try and rebuild her life. Through our work we continue to see too many mums suffering unnecessary birth trauma injuries.

"While Ashley has shown tremendous bravery in speaking out in the hope of helping mums, it’s vital that the hospital trust learns lessons from the issues in Ashley’s case to improve patient safety for others. We also urge all hospital trusts to ensure that as well as babies, the needs of mums are fully recognised and they receive the best care, not only in childbirth, but also during in any subsequent aftercare they may require."

Talib Yaseen, Chief Nursing Officer at Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust, said: “We are incredibly sorry that Mrs Roper suffered complications following the birth of her son, and regret to have identified that aspects of her care should have been better. We sincerely wish Mrs Roper all the best for the future.

“We reported in August last year that an internal service assurance audit identified 52 women (out of the 17,648 who birthed at the Trust between January 2020 and December 2022) who had experienced a third or fourth-degree perineal tear during childbirth, and where the required postnatal referrals to both urogynaecology and physiotherapy services had not been made. We are sincerely sorry that those referrals were not made, and we have individually apologised to those women who were impacted and offered them follow-up appointments.

“We remain committed to providing the best possible care to our patients, ensuring they receive the right diagnosis and treatment they need to get better. We take responsibility for our actions and remain dedicated to learning from any shortcomings to continually improve our services.”