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Raising awareness of PTSD following traumatic birth injury

Jane Weakley
28/06/2021
The BBC News recently featured the story of a new father who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the very difficult birth of his baby daughter and potential injury to his wife.

While Elliott Rae's wife was in labour, she was discovered to be infected with Group B Streptococcus, which can be extremely dangerous to both mother and baby. Despite her mother being treated with antibiotics, when the baby was born, she was unresponsive and was rushed to ICU in an incubator. The family remained in hospital for more than two weeks before they could take their new daughter home.

The point of the story is that Elliott Rae did not recognise that he was suffering with PTSD for almost a year following his daughter's birth, despite months of anxiety once the family was back home particularly living without the continual support they'd experienced in hospital.

His focus is now to bring awareness to other parents who may have gone through similar and to encourage particularly fathers to ask for help when they feel the anxiety and lack of control that he experienced. Happily, in this case, there was no permanent injury to the baby girl or the mother following the birth and it certainly appears that hospital staff reacted well to the situation.

In certain cases, however, where labour and birth are negligently handled by medical staff, the result can be permanent injury to a baby, causing lifelong disability. Dealing with these cases, we often find that one or both parents has suffered terrible PTSD because of their experience, often exacerbated by the knowledge that their beloved child will not develop in the same way as other children.

Under these circumstances, in parallel to pursuing a claim on behalf of the injured child, we can also pursue a claim for support for the parent suffering PTSD. This can take the form of providing funds for psychological care and support until they recover. This type of support is particularly vital to parents facing the challenge of learning how to care for a child with cerebral palsy and other brain injuries, who generally need 24-hour care with daily life.

In one particular of my cases, reported by the Evening Standard, a negligent delay in performing a c-section deprived a baby boy of oxygen during his birth, resulting in encephalopathy, hypoglycaemia, sepsis, seizures and persistent pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the blood vessels supplying the lungs). As a result of the brain injury, the boy's behaviour was extremely challenging for his parents for many years before the hospital admitted liability for his injuries.

As well as securing £30m on behalf of the child, I also instructed psychology experts to report on the mother's health and went on to secure funds to help her recover from the trauma of the birth.

Find out more about birth injury claims.

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