In recent years, midwives across the United States have come under fire for botched deliveries resulting in tragic consequences. The latest tragic example involves a Michigan midwife who is being sued after an infant died from an alleged brain injury at birth.
With home births and use of midwives instead of obstetricians being an increasingly common element of pregnancy, stories like this one should inspire women to pause and consider the best options for their health, and that of their infants.
Read on to learn more about this alleged negligent midwife and the disastrous consequences of inadequate healthcare. If you or your child have suffered from healthcare negligence at the hands of a midwife, including brain damage, consider your legal options by contacting Birth Injury Guide.
Lawsuit Alleges Botched Home Delivery Caused Brain Injury at Birth
According to media reports, an Ann Arbor midwife is accused of botching a home delivery that resulted in a brain injury and subsequent death of the newborn. The infant apparently was in the breech position when labor began, but instead of taking the mother to the hospital, the midwife continued with the home delivery.
A required notice filed on the family’s behalf by a personal injury attorney claims that the newborn suffered severe brain injuries during delivery, which resulted in his death just three days later. The attorney plans to file a birth injury negligence lawsuit in state court on behalf of the grieving parents.
The newborn was found to be healthy other than the alleged brain injury. The family’s attorney argues that the infant’s death could have been prevented had the midwife sought proper medical care. The midwife reportedly does not have a medical or nursing license. It is alleged that her “Stubborn” nature was in an attempt to keep the complicated delivery at home, rather than in the hospital where it should have taken place.
Are Midwives Really Dangerous?
The attorney representing the family described above noted in reports that this is not the first case he has managed involving a negligent midwife. In his statement to the Detroit Free Press, the attorney said that the case “represents yet another preventable tragic death of a healthy baby at the hands of a midwife”. The attorney noted that he has seen numerous cases involving brain injury at birth, asphyxiation, and other traumatic injuries.
Use of midwives and home births is one that has gained popularity in recent years. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that around 8 percent of all births in the U.S. are now managed by midwives. In 2014, the most recent year with birth data available, there were 332,107 births attended by midwives. Though midwives are an increasingly common element of labor and delivery, are they safe?
The answer to this question may be quite difficult to reach. Midwives may or may not have adequate training to recognize complications and get appropriate medical care. Some midwives have no formal medical or nursing training or education, which could put patients at risk when complications arise. In fact, several states have no requirement that midwives have education, testing, or medical licensure in order to attend deliveries.
Some midwife organizations, however, do have certain requirements for their midwives, as well as limitations for midwives lacking certain training. Henry Ford Health System, for example, has midwives on staff who are registered nurses with a master’s degree in midwifery. Midwives who do not have those qualifications do not attend home births or manage deliveries on their own, but rather may operate within a hospital setting.
Organizations like Henry Ford also work with patients throughout the pregnancy process, including prenatal visits, with healthcare overseen by a physician. This way, if complications arise, there is adequate medical staff on hand to help prevent disastrous and preventable injuries. Advocates for midwives state that examples like Henry Ford Health System should be the standard, and that midwives who fail to meet their duty should not – but often do – paint a negative portrayal of the role of midwives.
Information about Home Birth and Possible Risks
Home births are historically the “normal” way to bring newborns into the world. During the early 1900’s, the norm shifted to hospital births, especially as science gained a better understanding to prenatal health and risks. Complications involving fetal distress, maternal infections, and even brain injury at birth became better understood and doctors had better means of monitoring complications and risks.
Now, however, there is another shift, with home births once again increasing in popularity.
What is a Home Birth?
A home birth is a planned birth that takes place in the comfort of your own home. Most often, home births are attended by a midwife or doula. Home births are popular for women who want to have a very private, family-centered birth experience with friends and family often taking part.
A well-trained midwife will bring necessary items with her to the home birth. Some of the most common tools include:
- IV hydration
- Sterile gauze, cloths, blankets, gloves, thermometer, and sitz bath pan
- Medication used to slow down bleeding or stop hemorrhage
- Herbal or homeopathic medications or supplies
- Suture or First-Aid items
The items your midwife brings with her may depend on her level of training and ability to access and properly use birthing tools. Unfortunately, the usual items taken to a home birth do not include equipment used to monitor maternal and fetal vital signs like what would be available in a hospital.
What are the Risks of Home Birth?
Home birth is often an appealing option for women who are healthy and have a “low risk” pregnancy. The risks associated with home birth increase dramatically, however, if the mother has a history of, or develops, any of the following:
Research published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that home birth is associated with a “twofold increased risk of perinatal death” as well as an increased risk of seizures and neurologic dysfunction. These risks are largely attributed to obstetric complications and risk factors that may not be managed as well outside a hospital.
Home birth is also not recommended for couples where one partner is uncomfortable with the situation. This can create a chaotic environment and complicate the labor and delivery process.
Parents who are concerned about the level of care, or the skills provided by a midwife or doula should talk to their healthcare provider before planning on a home birth. As the aforementioned brain injury at birth lawsuit suggests, complications can quickly become disastrous if proper planning, skill, and adequate healthcare are not provided.
When are Home Births Transferred to a Hospital?
Some home births do not go according to plan, and it is necessary to transfer to mother to a hospital. According to research in the United Kingdom, as many as 40 percent of first-time mothers attempting a home birth require transfer to a hospital. Up to 10 percent of women with previous pregnancies require transfer.
There are many reasons why a home birth may require transfer to a hospital. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Exhaustion to the point that the mother cannot continue labor on her own
- Premature rupture of membranes (water breaking)
- High blood pressure
- Fetal distress
- Labor not progressing
- Cord prolapsed
- Breech position
There are also many cases where a home birth is completed, but the health of the mother or newborn requires skilled care. In cases such as a brain injury at birth, oxygen deprivation, or umbilical cord complications, a midwife or doula may not have the training and skills needed to assess the newborn and begin appropriate treatment.
Getting Help after a Birth Injury
It would be unfair to suggest that all midwives are negligent, or that all home births go horribly wrong. What this article means to suggest is that sometimes, labor and delivery does become complicated or mistakes are made. When that happens, it is the parents and child involved that suffer the consequences.
When medical mistakes, human error, or negligence cause birth injuries, it is important that parents learn more about their legal rights. Birth injury victims and their families are often entitled to compensation for their injuries or losses. In a case like a brain injury at birth, if the parents can prove that the midwife was negligent in her care, or should have called 911 or transferred the patient to a hospital, they may be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses and damages related to the loss of their child.
After any sort of birth injury – be it at home or in a hospital – your best first step is contacting a birth injury attorney to discuss your situation. At Birth Injury Guide, we are here to help families like yours through difficult times. Fill out our online form to request a free case review with one of our skilled attorneys.