A HEARTBROKEN couple from County Durham has called on hospitals to increase testing during pregnancy following their baby daughter’s death - three days after her mother reported her waters had broken.

Deborah McLaughlan visited Sunderland Royal Hospital when 38 weeks pregnant on March 21, 2020, telling staff her waters had broken.

Following a speculum examination by a midwife, who discussed the case with other two members of midwifery staff, Ms McLaughlan was told there was no evidence her waters had broken, a perinatal care report into the incident said.

She was sent home and advised to monitor any fluid loss and no other tests were carried out.

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Three days later Deborah, of Shildon, County Durham, returned to hospital concerned that her baby’s movement in the womb had reduced.

Following a scan Deborah and her partner Mark Thomson were told their daughter Chloe had died and fluid around the baby in the womb was reduced.

Deborah returned to hospital a few hours later to be induced and delivered Chloe, stillborn, the following day.

A post-mortem examination found Chloe died from a severe infection of the amniotic fluid – which protects babies in the womb – and pneumonia.

And a report commissioned by the hospital found Chloe might have survived if issues with Deborah had been identified sooner.

Following Chloe’s death, the couple, both aged 33, have spoken about their trauma for the first time, during Baby Loss Awareness Week, and have urged hospitals to increase testing for women who say their waters have broken.

A perinatal care report commissioned by the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Sunderland Royal, found there was currently no national guidance recommending medical staff carry out additional checks on top of a speculum examination to diagnose whether waters had broken in women 37 weeks pregnant and over.

The fact the case was discussed with two members of staff suggested there was uncertainty about her diagnosis, the report found.

It added that if issues in Deborah’s case had been identified Chloe may have survived.

The Trust said it would review its own procedures to advise that where there was uncertainty, midwifery staff escalate cases for further review and a potential ultrasound to measure fluid around the baby.

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Deborah and Mark on the tragic loss of their baby daughter Chloe.

“Whilst learning from Chloe’s case is important for the NHS, this cannot ease the heartbreak of losing a baby.

"We commend Deborah and Mark for sharing their story and raising awareness of pregnancy and baby loss.”

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Deborah has two other children – 15-year-old son Bailey and daughter Jaden, 13 - and Mark has a daughter from a previous relationship named Brooke, who is 11.

Deborah said: “We were both looking forward to being parents again and my pregnancy seemed to go by relatively smoothly until I felt my waters break.

"I was surprised when I was sent home but trusted the medical opinion.

“Even though deep down I thought something wasn’t quite right it was heart-breaking to be told that we had lost Chloe.

“Giving birth to her, knowing she had already died was absolutely traumatic.

“Me and Mark got to spend some time with Chloe in hospital but it wasn’t enough. Having to leave her knowing we wouldn’t be able to bring her home to meet and bond with her brother and sisters is something I don’t think we’ll ever get over.

“Knowing things could potentially have been different if my case had been escalated and more tests and scans had been carried out is the hardest thing to accept.

“We would give anything to turn back the clock and for things to be different but we know that’s not possible.

"All we can do now is share what happened to us to make other parents aware and urge hospitals to review their procedures and if needed carry out more checks.

“We also want to let others going through the same emotions as us following the loss of a baby know that it’s not their fault. They don’t have suffer alone.

“Baby Loss Awareness Week is an important reminder that there is help and support available.”

The couple instructed medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate Deborah’s care under the Trust.

Irwin Mitchell is campaigning to improve maternity services across the country and has also contributed to the Health Committee’s Maternity Safety Call for Evidence.

Lauren Cooper, the expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Deborah and Mark, said: “Deborah and Mark have been left devastated by Chloe’s death which continues to have a major impact on their lives.

“Understandably they have a number of questions about the events that unfolded in the lead up to Chloe’s death.

“Worrying issues in the care Deborah received have been identified in the report the Trust commissioned. It’s especially concerning that the outcome for Chloe may have been different if issues in Deborah’s care had been identified sooner.

“While nothing can make up for Deborah and Mark’s suffering, we would urge all Trusts to learn lessons from this case. Additional testing could make all the difference to other families.

“We’ll continue to support the couple at this distressing time and also campaign to improve maternity safety.”

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