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Couple waited all weekend for stillborn induced labour

06.05.2021 - 10:54
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 Mynd: Guðmundur Bergkvist - RÚV
A couple have gone public with their criticism of Landspítali national university hospital for making the woman wait all weekend to give birth to her stillborn baby. She was informed that her baby was dead on the Friday and sent home for the weekend. She is critical of the hospital for having broken the news without offering any counselling or psychological support. The birth was induced on the Monday and the child born on the Tuesday—nearly four days after the baby’s death had been confirmed.

Sigríður Jónsdóttir went for a planned check-up at Landspítali at the halfway point in her pregnancy, on the 23rd April this year—everything had seemed fine at another examination just two days earlier. 

“She was searching for a heartbeat, the midwife, in the examination room, and couldn’t find one. So, she told me she was going to get an obstetrician who would perform a scan. Then another obstetrician was called in, because she told me there needed to be two specialists to confirm it. But I didn’t actually know: ‘confirm what?’ At that point it had not actually been confirmed to me that the heartbeat was no longer there. But then another obstetrician came and confirmed their suspicion that there was no heartbeat,” Sigríður says. 

Next came a blood test, a urine test, and a virology test. Finally, Sigríður was told she would need to be induced. 

“And then she points out dates and times to me and I was really not getting it. I found it so strange when she started saying it would be on Monday. I asked: ‘what’s the next step?’ ‘Then you just come on Monday at seven and we’ll start the induction procedure’,” Sigríður says she was told. 

“For a moment I just thought: ‘it’s Friday. The time is nearly half-past-three. Am I really just going home?’ So I asked again: ‘do I just go home then?’ and she said ‘yes, you just go home for the weekend because it’s Friday and we don’t induce labour like this at the weekend,” Sigríður was told. 

“Overall, between learning that there is no heartbeat to being outside again took 29 minutes,” Sigríður adds. She called her husband in floods of tears while still on the hospital premises. 

“I couldn’t understand what she was saying when she called at first. It took her a good minute to get the message across that our girl was dead. It would have been very good if it had been some medical professional who would have said ‘Hello Magnús. Everything’s fine with Sigríður, but something has come up’ and so forth. That didn’t happen. We are unfortunately seeing quite a few stories that indicate this is not the exception,” says Magnús Kjartan Eyjólfsson. 

That you are not the only ones to have been treated like this? “Yes,” Magnús confirms. 

The hospital provided Sigríður with a leaflet on stillbirth in which it recommends inducing labour within 24 hours of the death of an unborn baby. 

“I was asked right afterwards whether I had considered autopsy. It’s fair to say I was stunned. No. I had not thought about autopsy. I had, however, thought a lot about my daughter’s naming party this December or November,” Sigríður says—adding that she received no counselling or crisis support that day.  

The family lives in Laugarvatn and it took Magnús and his father around an hour to drive to Reykjavík. 

“I would also have really liked, when pulling up at the hospital, to not see her in her car in floods of tears with nobody beside her,” Magnús says. 

“I felt phantom movements all weekend. Then you realise, no, she is not the child who disproves the rule and is not dead. Yes, she is dead and this is her moving lifelessly in the amniotic fluid.” Sigríður was then induced on the Monday and the baby born the following day. 

RÚV requested an interview with Landspítali, but the request was denied. A written reply from the hospital’s head of communication says: “While we strive to provide our 120,000 patients a year the most professional, good, high quality, and safe service possible, 24/7, Landspítali never comments on individual cases.” 

Sigríður says: “There needs to be some sort of red button in these situations. There needs to be some procedure that kicks in to catch people. That the health service can clock itself out for the weekend at four o’clock on a Friday is not acceptable.” 

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