A London hospital has launched an investigation after a woman whose baby died in the womb had to deliver her son at home due to lack of beds and keep his remains in her fridge when A&E staff said they could not store them safely.
Laura Brody and her partner, Lawrence, said they were “tipped into hell” after being sent home by University hospital Lewisham to await a bed when told their baby no longer had a heartbeat but no beds were immediately available to give birth, the BBC reported.
Two days later, after waking up in severe pain, Brody, who was four months into her pregnancy, gave birth in agony on the toilet in their bathroom. “And it was then,” she told the broadcaster, “I saw it was a boy”.
The couple, who wanted investigative tests to be carried out at a later time, dialled 999 but were told it was not an emergency. They wrapped their baby’s remains in a wet cloth, placed him in a Tupperware box, and went to A&E where they were told to wait in the general waiting room, they said.
“I was there holding my baby in a Tupperware box, crying, with 20 or 30 other people in that waiting room,” she said.
She was eventually taken into a bay and told she would require surgery to remove the placenta. But, with the waiting room hot and stuffy and staff refusing to store the remains or even look inside the Tupperware box, they decided as it got to midnight they had no option but for her partner to take their baby’s remains home.
“There was no one at the hospital willing to take charge of our baby. No one seemed to know what was going on,” he told the BBC. “It was almost as though no one wanted to acknowledge it. Because if they did, then they would have to deal with the problem.”
He said he took his son’s remains home in a taxi and cleared space in their fridge. “It was a lonely, surreal moment clearing space in my fridge,” he said.
Brody said the whole experience “felt so grotesque”.
“When things go wrong with pregnancy there are not the systems in place to help you, even with all the staff and their experts – and they are working really hard – the process is so flawed that it just felt like we had been tipped into hell,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme.
The case is said to have raised wider concerns among campaigners who argue that miscarriage care needs to be properly prioritised within hospitals including A&E.
In a statement to the BBC, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS trust said: “We are deeply sorry and offer our sincerest condolences to Ms Brody and her partner for the tragic loss of their baby and these traumatic experiences.
“A full investigation is under way to understand where failings in care may have occurred so that any necessary changes and improvements can be made.”
The minister for women’s health, Maria Caulfield, said: “Every loss of a child is a tragedy, and my deepest sympathies are with Ms Brody and her family.
“This government is committed to making the NHS the safest place in the world for maternity care and we have invested £95m into the recruitment of 1,200 midwives and 100 consultant obstetricians, whilst our new maternity disparities taskforce is exploring how to further reduce the number of stillbirths and maternal deaths.
“Later this year, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will publish new guidelines which will support NHS trusts to deliver more personalised miscarriage care, helping women through every step of their journey, including treatment options and management of future pregnancies.”
The experiences of miscarriage around the world are explored in a BBC documentary, Miscarriage: The Search for Answers.