Newborn baby died after hospital staff 'mistook labour pains for constipation'

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A mum whose newborn baby died after she says hospital staff mistook her labour pains for constipation has demanded that lessons are learned from her horrific ordeal.

Joanne Farrar and her husband James had to make the heartbreaking decision to turn off baby Ava's life support just days after she was born.

The 41-year-old, of Ashbourne, says that doctors and midwives at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport initially believed she had developed an infection when she informed them that she was in labour and was suffering from severe pain and discomfort.

Ava and her mother Joanne Farrar, shortly after Ava was born

Ava and her mother Joanne Farrar, shortly after Ava was born

But she claims that when tests came back clear, doctors then insisted she was constipated.

Eventually, after suffering a bleed, it was confirmed she was in labour and Ava was born via a planned Caesarean section.

However it was soon discovered that her baby had suffered severe brain damage and just days later distraught Joanne and her husband James agreed that Ava’s life support could be turned over.

A post-mortem examination indicated that while Ava had developed properly, evidence suggested she had been deprived of oxygen.

An inquest into her death, three years ago, concluded that she died of natural causes contributed to by neglect, with the coroner criticising staff for failing to consider “almost the blindingly obvious point” that Joanne may have been in labour.

Joanne said: “We faced the decision of having to turn Ava’s life support off and it was the hardest thing that James and I have ever done.

"I felt like I had given up on my baby and I remain devastated that I had to do it in the first place.

“I cannot help but think that if I had been treated somewhere other than Stepping Hill this may not have happened.

"Ava was never given a chance at life and to spend time with her brother and sister and this remains incredibly hard to take.

"All I wish is that someone had taken me seriously and listened to what I was saying."

Ava Farrar died shortly after she was born because she had been deprived of oxygen

Ava Farrar died shortly after she was born because she had been deprived of oxygen

Following their experience, Joanne and James instructed specialist negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help them gain answers and justice regarding Ava's death.

The couple have now received a five-figure settlement and letter of apology from Stockport NHS Foundation Trust.

Joanne said that her pregnancy was considered high risk from the outset after her first child Bobby, nine, was born via an emergency Caesarean and she had a planned C-section with her second child, six-year-old Izzy.

It was agreed that Joanne would have a planned C-section at 38 weeks on July 17, 2014 - but 10 days before on July 7 she says she started to suffer severe pain and discomfort, which she knew was "undoubtedly labour".

She said: "I managed to get myself to hospital and told doctors the doctors and midwives, but they claimed it was just a urinary tract infection.

"To make matters worse, when tests came back clear I was then told I was constipated and given medication for it. I was in utter disbelief as no-one was listening to me."

Joanne says she then attempted to go to the toilet to show she was not constipated and she then passed a large amount of blood. Following that it was confirmed she was in labour and Ava was delivered via Caesarean section.

However, just two hours afterwards the baby began to suffer seizures and was transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital, where it was discovered she had severe brain damage.

On July 12 the heart-breaking decision was made to turn Ava's life support off.

Ava and Joanne Farrar holding hands shortly after Ava was born

Ava and Joanne Farrar holding hands shortly after Ava was born

After receiving a settlement and apology, the couple have urged that lessons are learned.

Joanne said: "My only wish at this point is that, following our legal action, steps have been taken to ensure no other families face the same horrible ordeal that we have been through.”

A spokesman for Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stepping Hill Hospital, said: "We failed to provide a reasonable standard of antenatal care for Joanne and baby Ava and for that we are deeply sorry.

"We launched an immediate investigation afterwards, to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

"We would like to take this opportunity to repeat our sincere apologies, sympathy and condolences."

Gayle Palmer, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office who represents the family, said: “This is a truly devastating case in which a couple have lost their daughter as a result of circumstances which simply should never have happened.

“More than three years on, our clients are still doing everything they can to come to terms with what they have been through and the incredibly difficult decisions they faced – decisions no parent should ever have to make.

“While nothing will ever change what happened, we are delighted to have helped them gain justice, answers and an apology regarding what they endured.

"Stepping Hill Hospital has faced much criticism in recent times and it is vital that every effort is made to improve the quality of care provided to patients.”