A mum who lost her baby at just 22 weeks claims doctors ‘gave up’ on her daughter and left her to die – because she was born before the abortion limit.
Sophie Dennis, 34, claims little Autumn Orion Dennis showed signs of life and lived for nearly two hours after she was born in October 2017 – before taking her final breaths in her mother’s arms.
Sophie claims doctors at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle told her they wouldn’t be able to help Autumn because she was born so prematurely, but after the birth she showed signs of life an NHS report revealed ‘were not anticipated’ by doctors.
The legal limit of viability – whether or not a baby is deemed to be capable of growing – is 24 weeks, the abortion limit.
Sophie, from Newcastle, said: “When Autumn was born, I pleaded with doctors to help her.
“They said there was nothing they could do because she was 22 weeks – I think they were expecting her to be born stillborn.
“I was in shock so I didn’t protest. They told me how disabled she would be and how she wouldn’t be fit for life if they helped her.
“I said ‘are you going to leave my baby to die’?”
“Autumn came out gasping for air, and we kept asking them to do something.
“You could feel her pulse and feel her heartbeat. As she was passed to me she was moving and gasping for air.
“She was placed on my chest. I cried as I held her for nearly two hours.
“It was instant love but heartbreak at the same time. I felt like I’d failed her and kept apologising to her. I kept saying sorry to her.
“Doctors didn’t help her because they were expecting a stillborn.
“At the end of the day she was born showing signs of life so she should have been treated as such.
“I felt like I wanted to get up and put her in an incubator myself but I also felt helpless. You can’t put it into words how it feels hold your child and watch her die in your arms.
“She was showered with love the whole time she was alive. I would have done anything to swap places with her.
“Eventually, a midwife checked on her and said she was gone.
“My heart broke and a piece of me left that night and went with her, a piece of me and the person I once was died that night and went with her.”
Autumn was born at only 22 weeks and six days in October 2017 following Sophie’s high risk pregnancy during which she was diagnosed with subchronic haematoma – blood clots in her tissue.
An NHS report concluded that Sophie and her husband "should have been given the opportunity to talk to a neonatologist regarding the options available" and that "Autumn was born showing some signs of life, which were not anticipated".
NHS advice states that babies born between 22 and 26 weeks “may not survive or may have long- term problems” and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) say that babies born within this period are a “a major medical and ethical challenge”.
The RCOG say that only after 25 weeks is there a "general agreement that active management should be offered".
Sophie also claims doctors made an error on her maternity notes, saying she was 22 weeks and one day pregnant, which resulted in her daughter not being viewed as ‘viable’.
Sophie and husband Sam have now spoken out following the birth of miracle baby son Laken in earlier this year.
Sophie said: “I was scared of losing Laken at certain milestones, but thankfully it was a textbook pregnancy
“When he was born I didn’t want to hold him straight away, I needed a minute because I was full of emotion.
“Then something clicked and I scooped him up and held him close to me in the same place where I held Autumn.
“I believe she’s always around us and that Autumn looked out for Laken while I was pregnant with him."
But despite the joy of a new baby since Autumn’s birth, Sophie says that her baby’s death has devastated her and her family.
Sophie has now launched a petition in an effort to get the guidelines on assisting premature babies revised.
She said: “I don’t think any mum should have to go through that level of emotional and physical pain and then be told there’s nothing they could do and watch their child die.
“It’s currently a guideline to help a baby born under 24 weeks even if they show signs of life. It’s so wrong.
"If a woman wants to have an abortion she can, but if a woman wants her baby to survive they can’t.
“I knew on that bed, holding my child dying, that I’d do everything I could to stop that happening.
“If parents want a child to be helped and the baby is born showing signs of life which Autumn was than they should, because that’s a basic human right.
"There was so much more that they could have done.
"I feel hugely let down by the NHS. They let me and my daughter down. I can’t even describe in words how I feel about how they treated us that night.
"An apology won’t put it right. If she’d have been helped then she would have had a chance at life.
“The decision to try and keep my daughter alive was taken away from us and that was heartbreaking.”
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A spokesman for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We appreciate this has been a very difficult time for Mrs Dennis and her family. We investigated her concerns as part of our complaints process and shared our findings with her.
“When a baby is born pre-term their care and treatment is determined by careful and detailed consideration of a wide range of factors that are individual to that family.
“Patient confidentiality prevents us from commenting publicly on individual cases however, if there are any outstanding concerns we would be more than happy to arrange a meeting to discuss them with her.”
Sophie’s petition can be signed here.
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