Women are being refused epidurals in labour, the government has found.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, women across the country are being told they can’t have the pain relieving treatment while giving birth.
Officially, all women are entitled to choose to have one, but it has been claimed that lack of resources and lack of information mean the option is being taken away.
The Royal College of Midwives explained, “Unfortunately, due to stretched resources, anaesthetists are not always available, which poses real challenges for midwives seeking the best experience for women in labour.”
While statistics have found that epidural use in England has increased over the past few years, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service claims that women being told they cannot have an epidural has become a “common theme”.
The BPAS also suggested that women are being left “traumatised” and causing them to limit their reproduction as a result.
At the beginning of the year, Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed that all expectant mothers should be “able to make an informed choice that’s right for them, to know this choice will be fully respected and to have the freedom to change their mind”.
But the findings that some women are being forced to give birth in pain have prompted Health minister Nadine Dorries to write to all midwife heads and the directors of NHS trusts to remind them of guidelines that state that women in labour can ask for epidurals at any time, including during the early stages.
Various women have come forward to tell their stories after being refused an epidural.
Mother Kim McAllister told of how she screamed for the aesthetic when she gave birth to her first child.
“The midwife said, ‘No, you’re too far gone, keep going’. And that was the end of it – there was no information, no discussion with my husband,” she told the BBC.
“It was just really scary to be dismissed like that. I was made to feel powerless, at a time when you feel so vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, Angela Spiridis, told Victoria Derbyshire she was “outright refused” an epidural.
“At one point I was arguing with four medical professionals, one being the midwife. And they said, ‘No, you’re not in labour’.
“They didn’t trust me as a woman to know my own body. [I felt] I was being judged, asking for an epidural.”