Parents file complaint after baby’s head cut during C-section
A shocking 1,700 babies are thought to be cut during Caesarean births each year. Your Life investigates...
Matthew Watson is only two but already he has what his parents call "a war wound".
It is a three-and-half-inch scar which runs from his eyebrow up to his hairline - the legacy of a traumatic accident during his Caesarean birth.
Matthew is one of an estimated 1,700 newborns cut during their C-sections every year in the UK.
As the number of babies born by Caesarean rises, a shocking Daily Mirror investigation reveals one in every 100 is estimated to be injured by surgical instruments as they are removed from the womb.
While some are nicks that expose babies to risk of infection, others are deep enough to scar infants for life - even though there are surgical techniques which reduce the risk of injury.
Like most mums-to-be, Matthew's mother Wendy had no idea there was a danger of her baby being cut.
Wendy, 32, from Kent, had an emergency C-section after her labour failed to progress.
"During the operation, we heard the surgeon shouting and swearing at his colleague from the other side of the surgical screen," says Wendy, a Government finance officer.
"It turned out his assistant, who'd been handling the forceps holding me open, had lost his grip and dropped them on my baby's head as he was being delivered." But it wasn't until she was handed her newborn an hour later that she was saw a long cut on Matthew's little forehead.
"Afterwards, the surgeon came and spoke to us and apologised. He even seemed to have tears in his eyes as he talked to us and we took no action."
Far form fading with age, as Matthew's head has grown his scar has stretched to 3.5ins.
"Now we call it Matthew's war wound. He's too young to notice it at this age and his hair covers it at the moment.
"When friends and family see it they say: 'Poor little love.' We're sad that it happened as he will probably have it for ever now. But there's nothing we can do to make it go away."
It is not just babies who suffer. Because so few women are warned of the risks, many mums are traumatized to see injuries to their newborns.
Janet Davies suffered posttraumatic stress after a planned C-section to give birth to her second child, Lucius.
The first time he was handed to Janet, he had a steri-strip on his cheek to close a gash.
"As soon as Lucius was lifted out of my tummy, I noticed there were several people huddled over him," says Janet, 39, a project manager from Manchester.
"When they brought him over to me, I was shocked to see he had a plaster across his cheek, almost up to his eye.
"At first, I was told it was just a nick from when the doctors had cut through the final layer to get Lucius out. But a week later the plaster came off and I saw he had a huge cut. "I was heartbroken.
When I finally got through to one of the senior midwives at the hospital she told me: 'You took the risk by wanting to have a C-section.' I couldn't believe it.
"Then she reminded me that I had signed a consent form - as if I had signed away all my rights. The main priority seemed to be to fend off lawsuits.
"In the weeks after, I became depressed. I was diagnosed with post-natal depression but when I started having flashbacks and nightmares about the birth, I was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress.
"Of course, every time I saw the scar on my son's face - and it became clear it would never fade - it all came flooding back to me. For the first year, I hardly ever took pictures of him because I found it so upsetting." In other cases, mums they found medical staff reluctant to admit what happened.
Mum Sadie Neave, 28, from Gloucs, fears her George will be scarred after was cut on his eyelid during C- section in June year, narrowly avoiding serious injury.
" At the time we were with having a healthy baby," says Sadie. "It wasn't until we went to the ward that I looked at it. It was a perfect cut - a bit like a paper cut." Other mums report that the cuts to their babies went unnoticed or untreated, leaving them open to the risk of infection.
Sarah Fitch's C-section was scheduled after her baby girl was found to be breach at her 40-week check-up.
"It wasn't until I changed Sophia's nappy for the first time that I noticed the cut on her bottom - about two centimeters long and looking fairly deep. "It was a shock," says Sarah, 32, a financial adviser from Hornchurch, Essex.
"This is a brand-new baby and all I could think of was: 'You poor little thing. No wonder you're screaming.'" Medical research by doctors says the cuts happen in about 1% of C-sections.
However, some American studies have put the number of babies injured at closer to 3%.
But despite how common it is, researchers admit the issue is "reported rarely" - and new mums are seldom warned.
Sailesh Kumar, consultant at the country's leading maternity hospital Queen Charlotte's in West London, says cuts to babies are more likely to happen during emergency C-sections but that surgeons can use techniques to minimise the risks.
"They are an occupational hazard," he says.
"Anyone who has done a lot of C-sections and hasn't seen it happen has been very lucky." However, the expertise of the surgeon plays a large part, says Mr Kumar, because some are more experienced than others at judging the thickness of the womb lining.
But he said the risk of cutting the baby can be reduced by using a finger, rather than a scalpel, to pull apart the final layer of the womb.
Another technique is to gently cut along the womb lining with scissors - while running a finger under the blade to avoid cutting the baby. It comes as a recent review of C-section techniques said UK doctors use a variety of methods - some based on "preference".
Many emergency operations are also performed late at night, when only more junior doctors are available.
Sasha Miller, editor the UK's largest baby website Babycentre, said the risk of cutting babies is another reason for mums to avoid C-sections unless absolutely necessary.
"Caesareans are often seen as the easy option but, like all operations, they carry risks.
"While they can be life-saving for the mum and her baby, they should only be used when they are really necessary." But Pauline McDonagh Hull, of www.electivecesarean.com, fears that a growing reluctance to give C-sections for cost reasons in the NHS means many end up being more dangerous because they are rushed.
Our son's wound was horrible
Jack McManus was left with a four-and-a-half-inch scar from his forehead to his ear after his caesarean birth.
Mum Joanna McCarthy, 36, had a C-section after attempts to induce the birth of her son, now six, failed.
Jack's dad Kelvin McManus, 41, said: "You don't expect your child to be scarred like this before even being born. The wound was horrible."
"The doctor apologised and said she should have been more careful but I could barely speak." Health authority bosses later issued an apology.
We were really shocked
Toddler Tyler Robinson was awarded £10,000 in damages after a surgeon'scalpel accidentally made a 13.5cm cut a cross her bottom. As soon as she w as born by emergency C-section, Tyler, now five, was taken to a specialist hospital to clean up and close up the wound caused by the knife.
Her mum Tracy, 34, from York, who was separated for a day from her new baby, says: "We were shocked. But it was just as well Tyler was in breech position."
If she had been the right way round, the wound could have been in a much mor e dangerous place. Just after she was born, I just wanted to cuddle her. It was the longest 24 hours of my life."
Caesarean births: Scarred before they were born - Exclusive