Last week in Australia, Caroline Lovell, a home birth advocate. died the day after childbirth. Blogger Mia Freedman reports on the story and adds:
When I went to look for information on the death of Janet Fraser’s baby during her freebirth, I found that all the threads on the freebirthing and homebirth forums that dealt with bad outcomes (including the death or injury of the baby or mother) were locked and not visible to the public who were only able to read the happy health birth stories.
So a blog reader caught my attention a few days later when she shared a link about the death of baby Magnus (pictured) in a birthing center. Some birthing centers that offer midwifery care are directly overseen by a hospital. But Magnus’s mother Sara only realized afterward that her son’s birth was the equivalent of a home birth, only in someone else’s home. There was no supervision at all, only a loose connection with an OB.
Sara and her husband became concerned because of the baby’s breech position at 38 weeks. Sara had thought that the birth center didn’t do breech births, but the midwives assured her it was perfectly safe:
I asked her specifically what she would do if indeed he did end up getting stuck and her reply was, “She’d have to get him out.” She told us that breech babies are, “Just a variation of normal and that as long as there wasn’t anything odd or troublesome that delayed labor, then we could have the baby there and not be transferred to the hospital.” That’s it. No discussion of what could go wrong, no indication that it could turn out in such a devastating way as it did. We did not fully understand the severity of risk we were taking on.
After reading Sara’s heartbreaking story, I decided to read the ten other entries in the blog, Hurt By Homebirth. The blog was founded by Dr. Amy Tuteur, a Harvard-educated obstetrician and well-known anti-home-birth activist. She started Hurt By Homebirth to give parents a chance to tell their stories, in their own words, in a safe place where they would not be attacked by home-birth advocates.
What shocked me about the homebirth stories is that in nearly every case, the baby’s death or injury was related to common factors like placenta previa or Group B strep. These conditions are generally prevented or treated with proper prenatal and obstetric care, but the midwives either overlooked the conditions or treated them with unconventional methods. Also, the mothers and babies were not transferred to the hospital in time. Reading these stories illustrates how quickly things can go wrong. It appears that the quality of private midwifery care varies widely, and it’s difficult to get accurate information about a particular midwife’s qualifications and success rates.
As Sara wrote in a Facebook comment (using her husband Jarad’s account),
” . . . when you start talking about agendas and skewed statistics, it goes both ways. That was absolutely our experience with the extremist philosophies of our midwives that directly impacted our care in the face of crisis. It is also our experience trying to seek accountability through NARM and MANA. This is not a one sided issue, it is about defining a way in which families are not put in the middle of two opposing systems, but finding a way for them to work together for the best interest of all of us. Example: British Columbia, Netherlands who take licensing standards seriously, help their midwives be insured, and work both in and out of hospitals . . . and oh by the way, report their outcomes.”
Condolences to Sara and Jarad on the tragic loss of their son, Magnus. I hope and pray that sharing their painful story will lead to improved care for future mothers and babies.