An Overview of Home Births & Midwives
Medical science gives expectant mothers the opportunity for extensive control over location, technology, medication and other aspects of the birthing process. Home births, for example, increased 29 percent from 2004 to 2009. When everything is right, a woman can choose to give birth in her own home, without the need for what some consider to be obtrusive medical technology. A natural birth experience should ordinarily be permitted. However, midwives must warn their patients of the risks inherent in the natural birthing process, and must identify whether a natural birth is truly in the best interests of the baby and the mother.
How to Choose a Midwife
For women who are thinking about using a midwife, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to avoid dangerous situations:
- Find out whether you are high risk: if you have any high risk conditions, you generally should not use a midwife. Women with high risk factors should opt for careful medical monitoring and care in order to increase the risks of a successful delivery and a healthy baby.
- Research your midwives: Each state has different rules about midwife education and certification. Find out what they are, and make sure your midwives have the appropriate credentials. Also, it is a good idea to determine whether your midwife has had any medical malpractice lawsuits, criminal charges (sometimes midwives are charged criminally for the deaths of babies), or negative actions taken on his or her license. Most states have electronic internet databases that allow searches by name.
- Know what is allowed: Most states have requirements about home births and births away from hospitals. Some states, for example, permit midwives to deliver babies in a mother’s home, but require a doctor or certified nurse to be present. Some states permit midwives to manage a pregnancy, but require collaboration with an obstetrician.
- Make sure your midwife has a backup plan: In the event of an emergency, midwives should have a backup plan. Do they have equipment that they can use if necessary (electronic fetal monitoring, doppler, oxygen tanks)? Do they have an obstetrician on-call? Is there a hospital nearby?
- Find out if your midwife has malpractice insurance: This is a sensible precaution. If your midwife does not have at least $5 million in medical malpractice coverage, you should find another midwife. If your midwife does something wrong, a good insurance policy could mean the difference between expert medical care and state-assisted medical aid for your child.
In our experience, birth injuries caused by midwives usually result from one or more of the following:
- Patient criteria: midwives must screen their patients very carefully. Not all women are candidates for home births or midwife-assisted births, particularly those who are high risk. In particular, midwives are more likely to ignore the dangers of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)
- Informed consent: midwives must clearly and openly disclose all significant risks to a midwife-assisted delivery.
- Negligent credentials: some midwives do not meet minimum state standards or licensing requirements.
- Failure to assess the baby’s condition: midwives may ignore warning signs in an effort to provide a natural birth, at significant risk to the baby or delivering mother
- Failure to have in place and/or follow adequate policies and/or procedures regarding emergency delivery of babies.
Midwife-Caused Birth Injuries
When midwives are negligent, the injuries to babies can be extreme and life-altering, including:
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus injuries
- Cephalohematoma birth injuries
- Stillbirth/death of the baby
- Postpartum hemorrhage
If you are considering a midwife-assisted delivery and want more resources to determine whether it is the right choice for your baby, call us. If your baby has been severely injured because of a midwife’s failures during pregnancy, labor and delivery, contact us for a free consultation at (855) 712-7818 or online.