While the majority of incidents involving medical malpractice and birth injuries occur at hospitals during labor, a new alarming trend is the frequency of stillborns and birth injuries that occur during home births.
Home births are on the rise as mothers hope to return to the past and have a more relaxed and stress-free birth in their own home. There are many forms of home births, such as water births, but most forms include the use of a midwife. Many have doctors either present or on call. However, Dr. Lachlan de Crespigny and Professor Julian Savulescu warn mothers about home births in a research article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
In fact, “having a home birth may be like not putting your child’s car seat belt on,” the researchers caution in their article.
During a home birth, the midwife and doctor do not have the same resources available at a hospital. Any complications or issues that arise during or after childbirth at home cannot be as quickly detected and treated. In the instance of a birth injury during home birth, the child and mother must be transported to a hospital. Every second counts, and during this time, doctors won’t have access to the mother or child during a time of critical need.
Due to the lack of access to resources and hospital staff, the prevalence of stillborns in home births has skyrocketed. Home births have resulted in 10 times as many stillborns, when compared to hospital births. Home births have also resulted in 4 times as many instances of traumatic brain injuries at birth. However, experts estimate that this data is understated as it does not include infants who needed to be rushed to a hospital and were then successfully treated for a home birth complication.
Another lasting problem with home births is that the mothers are not adequately informed. Midwives and doctors often do not warn the mothers of the dangers of home births, and medical research on home births is scant.
Home births only account for approximately 1% of births in the U.S. However, the number of home births has tripled since 2004, especially among women who have given birth before and women older than 35.
While many home births go smoothly, the need for immediate medical or surgical attention during a complication negates any added benefits of a home birth. Many hospitals are now offering more comfortable and compassionate settings for women who might be considering a home birth.
In fact, more U.S. hospitals have begun offering water births and other alternative forms of childbirth. These hospitals, many of which are located in Illinois, permit mothers to actually lie down in birthing tubs and give birth while in the water. In order to minimize risk associated with alternative forms of birth, many hospitals recommend obstetrician approval and require that the mother be at low risk for complications.
If you or a loved one suffered a birth injury either prior to or after delivery during a home birth, please consider calling Levin & Perconti to discuss your options.
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