A recent story in a British newspaper left me feeling bewildered at this tragic loss and wondering what I can learn from it. A 20-something mother died 6 hours after giving birth to her baby at home.

I am not one to ignore or **hide** the less-than-optimal outcomes that occasionally occur at homebirths as some of our opposition would assert. Rather, I wish to dissect it (as much as possible form the information given in the article which is, I’m sure, far from all of it) and learn the lessons that are there for the taking.

The mom suffered a massive hemmorhage after an inverted uterus began bleeding profusely. It seems that a huge factor in this woman’s death revolves around lack of communication between the hospital and the attending midwife at the time of transport.

One of the gynecologists on staff said, “The staff were expecting a retained placenta. If they had been told it was a complete inversion of the uterus then she would almost certainly have gone straight to theatre and I would have been ready for her.”

One thing that seems to be missing from this article is the answer to this question, which of course, could only be answered by the attending midwife: “How/why did the inversion occur?” As a training midwife, this question is of utmost importance to me. All of the study I’ve come across says they are almost always caused by interference of some sort. Not always, but generally.

I am skeptical of it being anything but an induced inversion because she was not (apparently) forthright in telling the ER staff of the woman’s condition. Did she pull on the cord or placenta? Perhaps the woman was hemorrhaging and the midwife attempted manual removal in order to stop the bleeding? 

Or was there no communication because she is an independent midwife and was greeted with hostility when she arrived with her client at the ER with paramedics?

And rather than blame the midwife, we should probably wonder why paramedics weren’t trained to cannulate? When they, perceivably, attend more massive bleed situations than a midwife would? Her assumption was the same as mine might have been as she was quoted as saying, “Knowing the ambulance was only a few minutes away I thought it was better to leave it for the proper paramedics who have expertise in this on a daily basis.”  While cannulating (inserting an iv and fluids) may not have saved this woman’s life, it could have bought more time for the hospital staff to figure out what was going on and act accordingly.

There is quite a bit of talk about this on certain people’s blogs, saying this is exactly why DEM’s shouldn’t be practicing and why homebirths are “inherently dangerous”. Again, I would say, a DEM is such a broad term that I prefer not to use it. I prefer to use the term “midwife” and then find out on an individual midwife’s training is. Some CNM’s (from personal experience) have no business catching babies. They simply took the extra training for the pay raise. I had one tell me this straight out. She was an OB RN and had caught enough she thought she “ought to be getting paid for it”. “I wouldn’t say it’s my passion, but it’s a good gig.” CNM’s can also get their certification online. I mention this since it seems to be a point of contention and an excuse for the “CPM’s training isn’t good enough” crowd. All DEM’s are not created equal, just as all OB’s are not. Gasp – horror!!!!! Did I just endorse OB’s? No, I said I won’t cast judgement on them all for the actions of some.

This is all, of course, an overstepping of my bounds in regards to making a judgement on this midwife and this homebirth. There is no way for me to calculate, based on one newspaper article, what went wrong, who is to blame, etc. Nor is there enough in one article to use it as fodder for a position that says “ban on all homebirths”. It is a sadly uneducated and narrow-minded person who would do so.


2 thoughts on “Judgements

  1. Having been to transports where the hospital refuses to listen to the midwife no matter what she says – that could also be a possibility. But I think the bigger question here is how in the course of 6 hours did they not discover the inversion on their own and operate?

  2. I’m not sure if you’ve read this midwife’s take on this story, but she brings out several good points. The chief one being that this woman died 6 hours after being admitted to the hospital. What was the hospital staff told about this woman? If they were told nothing, how is it that they assumed what the problem was? How did they not check? It seems to me that it would have been done as an assessment following a postpartum hospital admission — whether or not the midwife was completely forthcoming with what happened. However, it sounds as if there was just a failure to communicate between the midwife, ambulance personnel, and hospital staff — not intentional. Regardless, how did the hospital staff miss that this woman was hemorrhaging to death over the course of 6 hours?

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