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Is Having A Natural Home Birth With A Nurse Midwife Safe Or Does It Cause More Birth Injuries?

by The Beasley Firm  |  December 5, 2012  |  

I just read an article about a lawsuit that involved a hypoxic brain damaged baby due to a lack of oxygen during birth and it got me thinking. I am not going to comment on the verdict amount or who was or was not at fault for the birth injury but rather just talk about some of the potential birth problems that were mentioned in the article.

Many women today are opting for a home birth or natural childbirth with a certified nurse midwife (CNM). I personally, felt that I was able to effectively bond with my newborn baby’s being numb from the waist down, but that was just me. Some mothers would rather have a more calming and natural childbirth at home instead of in the hospital. I think that is wonderful, but it does not come without some serious risks and any mother who is contemplating having a home birth with a CNM, must thoroughly investigate the nurse midwife to see if they are able to handle an emergency situation during birth.

In 2010, the minor plaintiff was delivered via Caesarean section (C-section) at a hospital while under the care of three obstetrical and gynecological (OB-GYN) doctors. The mother had planned for a home birth with a nurse midwife. She went into labor the day earlier, started to have complications and the birth progression stopped. After 14 hours or so of labor, an ambulance was called to take the mother to the hospital. According to the mother, an emergency C-section was ordered but it was not performed until 2 hours after reaching the hospital. The baby was born with oxygen deprivation, permanent brain damage, and cerebral palsy.

It was proposed that the hospital’s staff was negligent because it took too long to perform an urgent C-section and the baby was not receiving oxygen possibly due to something wrong with the umbilical cord. It was also argued that all of the baby’s injuries occurred while the mother was at home during a difficult labor and under the care of the nurse midwife. It was felt that both the first and second stages of labor were prolonged and the nurse midwife tried to speed up the delivery by applying fundal pressure (to push the baby out) and giving an injection of Pitocin (to strengthen the contractions). When the baby still did not deliver, the nurse midwife performed an episiotomy even though the baby’s head was not visible at that time. Once the midwife realized both the mother and baby were in distress, she called the ambulance.

According to the lawsuit, when the mother was admitted to the hospital, she was a completely unknown pregnant patient and the nurse midwife did not have any collaborative physician, as required by law, so there was no doctor on staff that knew the mothers prenatal history, culture reports or health status. Once the baby was born, he had already suffered severe hypoxic brain damage due to a lack of oxygen during the birth process.

Each year, our medical and legal teams here at the Philadelphia Beasley birth injury law firm, review hundreds of birth injury or nurse midwife delivery cases. Sometimes, even though there was a bad outcome or birth injury, there may not be obstetrical negligence. Other times, the nurse midwife or OB-GYN doctor can be found medically negligent. I know absolutely nothing about the accuracy of facts of the case I just read about but it does bring up some questions you should be asking yourself if you are thinking about a natural birth at home.

Any pregnant woman who is deciding on having a home birth with a nurse midwife must find out who the CNM has a physician collaborative agreement with. You want to know if an emergent situation should occur during labor, what doctor is the midwife going to call and where is the nearest hospital. You would also want to make sure that the hospital closest to you can handle an obstetrical emergency or difficult birth. Will your prenatal chart be at the hospital just in case you have to be admitted for an emergency C-section? Is the hospital equipped with a neonatologist or physician who would be able to treat your newborn in case he or she was born in distress or requires resuscitation?

Each and every year, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of babies are born at home with the help of a midwife without any problems or complications. Of course, I do not see those cases. Unfortunately, I only see the cases where there was something that went terribly wrong during labor and delivery or there was a birth injury.

If you or your baby were injured during a home birth or while under the care of a nurse midwife, you may be eligible for compensation. Please feel free to contact one of our birth injury lawyers, doctors or nurses for a strictly confidential and free consultation. We have on staff full time health care providers who have worked in labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care units (NICU) or assisted in emergency deliveries. Just recently, Jim Beasley Jr. M.D., J.D.,received a $12.6 million verdict where a nurse midwife was negligent and it led to a severely brain damaged baby.

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