Mum's questions to hospital after A&E stillbirth experience

Hollie Meehan and her son, Tien Meehan-Smith, eight, at their home in Felixstowe with their memorial

Hollie Meehan and her son, Tien Meehan-Smith, eight, at their home in Felixstowe with their memorial bench to Binx, daughter and sister, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

The mother of a little girl born stillborn in the disabled toilets of Ipswich Hospital's A&E hopes speaking of her experience can lead to change and a legacy for her daughter who "deserved better".  

Hollie Meehan, from Felixstowe, was 17 weeks and two days pregnant when she went to the emergency department concerned about baby Binx, who was born on September 14, 2021.

She has spoken of the concerns she had around the care of pregnant women in A&E after being told to go there as she was under 20 weeks pregnant and said the hospital should look to change its policies.

Hollie Meehan at her home in Felixstowe with the memorial bench and garden to her daughter Binx, who

Hollie Meehan at her home in Felixstowe with the memorial bench and garden to her daughter Binx, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Miss Meehan said: “If my daughter is entitled to a funeral, she should be entitled to the same medical treatment. Everyone should be.

“That might be the reason a lot of parents of children born under 20 weeks struggle in silence. You feel your children aren’t taken seriously enough if the baby is under 20 weeks.

“The policy needs to be looked at.

“What is the difference between 17 weeks and 20 weeks, it is only a couple of weeks.”  

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The 27-year-old also wanted to challenge the stigma around miscarriage and baby loss so that parents can speak out as well.

The memorial bench to Binx Lee Meehan-Scaife, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE B

The memorial bench to Binx Lee Meehan-Scaife, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) apologised at the time and carried out an investigation to address Miss Meehan's concerns around staffing in the department that day, her treatment, her concerns of the lack of completion on her maternity notes and the communication to the bereavement team following Binx's birth.

ESNEFT’s chief nurse said changes have included ensuring the midwifery team is made aware of every woman attending A&E who is 20 weeks pregnant or more, a 24-hour bleep holder for senior staff to help with pregnancy-related queries, in-person reviews and the transfer of pregnant patients to a maternity ward within 30 minutes of arrival.

Giles Thorpe said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Hollie and her family on the very sad loss of baby Binx. Hollie raised her concerns about her treatment and care with us in October 2021. We have carefully investigated and shared the results with Hollie.

“Much work has taken place to improve the experience for pregnant people attending emergency departments since this time."

The first signs of concern for the 27-year-old happened shortly after her 12-week scan.  

Hollie Meehan and her son, Tien Meehan-Smith, eight, at their home in Felixstowe with their memorial

Hollie Meehan and her son, Tien Meehan-Smith, eight, at their home in Felixstowe with their memorial bench and garden to Binx, daughter and sister, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Miss Meehan said: "We were a happy picture-perfect family, we had gone and had our 12-week scan and told Tien he was going to be a big brother and had a big party. We had gone and brought our first lots of baby stuff.  

"We were a picture-perfect family lying on the sofa, I sat there and felt like I was weeing. I ran upstairs I thought I wet myself and I was bleeding.  That carried on and carried on."

Hollie shared the news of expecting Binx with her son Tien after the 12 week scan.

Hollie shared the news of expecting Binx with her son Tien after the 12 week scan. - Credit: Hollie Meehan

In the four weeks leading up to Binx's birth, Miss Meehan said she had around 10 speculums.

Miss Meehan raised with staff about the completion of her maternity book, as she made many visits to the hospital due to continuous bleeding.

A scan was arranged to check on Binx after Miss Meehan lost a considerable amount of blood and the scan showed Binx with a heartbeat and "wiggling around".

Around 4am on September 14, 2021, Miss Meehan began to feel unwell and was told to go to A&E because she was under 20 weeks pregnant.

Items that were bought for Binx Lee Meehan-Scaife which now decorate her memorial garden after she w

Items that were bought for Binx Lee Meehan-Scaife which now decorate her memorial garden after she was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

She said: "This time was different.  

"All the other times, I was bleeding, passing blood clots, blood clots the size of £2 coins, and I was calm. I wasn’t in any pain. I could feel her move. I can understand why maybe things were taken very lightly. The morning I went in there I was screaming and begging for help and was being told to calm down and to breathe.

"Because I was under 20 weeks, I was told to go to A&E. I had phoned maternity, I had phoned gynaecology, I’d phoned for an ambulance because we felt that I needed medical attention straight away.  

"I think A&E failed me, but I think one of the reasons why they failed me is because they are not trained, as in they are not midwives."  

Hollie at the funeral service for Binx, who was born stillborn on September 14 2021.

Hollie at the funeral service for Binx, who was born stillborn on September 14 2021. - Credit: Hollie Meehan

Hollie has a memory box for Binx, including a copy of her hand and footprints. 

Hollie has a memory box for Binx, including a copy of her hand and footprints. - Credit: Hollie Meehan

Binx's dad was in the car due to Covid restrictions at the time, with the expecting mum sitting in a busy A&E in pain and kept asking for help.  

She was triaged around two hours after arriving at the hospital and said several comments made by staff were upsetting, and that she had felt her only support was from another pregnant woman and her husband.  

Miss Meehan said: "This girl put her hand on the glass and was like ‘breathe with me, it’s ok, I’m here for the same thing’. All I kept doing was holding my stomach and telling Binx, 'it’s ok, god doesn’t give us things we can’t deal with, we’ve got this, we’re going to be ok.'

"I didn’t get any comfort in that A&E. I got comfort from another mother who didn’t know if her baby was alive or dead. The next thing I see is this nurse walking in with Binx’s dad."

Around five minutes after Binx’s dad arrived, Miss Meehan described a sharp twinge and a hard lump and tried to raise this with staff. 

Miss Meehan, who is mum to Tien, eight, said: "I tried to collar medical staff to say something is not right, you know after four weeks of passing blood clots, you know the difference and I have had a baby.  

"I kept being told to wait. Why should I wait? I just told you that it has gone from me screaming to something not right, I’ve passed something hard.  

"No-one wants to say ‘I think my baby has just come out’ in a corridor full of people."  

Miss Meehan went to the toilet to see what had happened, and within moments she was pulling the cord to alert staff Binx had been born and needed a blanket.

Binx was born stillborn at 17 weeks weighing around 12 grams.

Part of the memorial garden to Binx Lee Meehan-Scaife, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture:

Part of the memorial garden to Binx Lee Meehan-Scaife, who was born stillborn at 17 weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Following Binx's passing, Miss Meehan said she could not fault the aftercare she received except when she was first supported by the hospital's bereavement support service, who had not been told of the circumstances around Binx's birth.

Aside from the miscommunication, Miss Meehan praised the team, but said it had been painful to relive the memory to them.

Tien on his 8th birthday at the memorial bench in memory of his baby sister Binx.

Tien on his 8th birthday at the memorial bench in memory of his baby sister Binx. - Credit: Hollie Meehan

She said: "My little girl deserved better that day. 

"That whole experience could have been so much better. I genuinely feel like, a lot of my issues I have had after are because of that experience.  

“It wasn’t done intentionally, it wasn’t done to cause harm, but it did cause harm.

“I think there should be a midwife in A&E, she could have dictated the situation.

“If she [Binx] is one little brick in that house of change.”

Miss Meehan said it was difficult that Binx did not have a birth certificate as legally there is no provision to allow the registration of stillbirths before 24 weeks.

Hospitals and charities often issue keepsakes for the family, such as baby wristbands, hand and footprints and cards.

Among items in a memory box for Binx, Miss Meehan has a wristband and a template certificate sent by the miscarriage and stillborn charity 4Louis she filled with Binx's name.  

The 27-year-old said there would be comfort for hospitals to print a certificate to acknowledge stillbirths before 24 weeks even though it is not a requirement to do so.

Miss Meehan said: "She was a person. She deserved at least an acknowledgement by her hospital.”

She further wanted to raise awareness of baby loss charities such as 4Louis, Petals and Cherish Gowns which had supported her.  

“Baby loss and miscarriages are a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be. We’re lonely. Mother’s Day is coming up and we are still mums," she said.  

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT - Credit: ESNEFT

ESNEFT chief nurse Giles Thorpe said: “The midwifery team is now made aware of every woman attending the emergency department who is 20 weeks pregnant or more, or if they have newly delivered.  

“There is also a senior midwifery bleep holder who is available 24 hours a day to help with any pregnancy related queries.  

They are available to review anyone in person if there is no accurate dating regarding the pregnancy, and can make a plan for every person more than 20 weeks pregnant.  

"We also now make sure that patients are transferred to a maternity ward within 30 minutes of arriving at the emergency department."

What support is there for parents of miscarriage and baby loss?

There are many organisations and charities across the country raising money and offering support to bereaved parents. 

The charity Tommy's provides support as well as researching miscarriage and stillbirth with its mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to give birth.

Research shows 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage and in the UK 1 in every 250 pregnancies end in stillbirth.

One of the leading charities is Sands which has an online bereavement support book and support services for parents for as long as individuals need. 

Sands’ bereavement support services are available on 0808 164 3332 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 6pm to 9pm Tuesday and Thursday evenings. You can also email helpline@sands.org.uk for support. 

The charity 4Louis provides tools, equipment and training free of charge to medical professionals on how to comfort families.

Among items it provides are Moses baskets, cuddle cots, memory boxes and has funded bereavement rooms.

Petals offer baby loss counseling with the vision to ensure parents have easy and timely access to specialist support.

Cherished Gowns UK supports families by providing clothing free of charge for their child's funeral. 

Each child receives a gown which is handmade by volunteers from donated wedding dresses as well as a hat, pair of booties, a blanket and cloth nappy.