The trend of giving birth in a non-hospital setting has been on the rise in the United States, with 1.36% of babies being born outside of a hospital setting in 2012. While some of these births are completed at home, most of them are completed in dedicated birth centers. Birth centers, separate from hospitals, have seen a rise in popularity since recent legislation has made them more economical and more emphasis has been been placed on the experience of the mother during pregnancy and birth. In home births and birth centers, more decisions are left up to mothers and medical interventions are generally avoided as much as possible.
The success of non-hospital births is made possible by midwives accepting low-risk patients and having a backup plan in case of a medical emergency. However, there is still a risk of birth injury during a non-hospital birth. If you or your baby has suffered a birth injury during a non-hospital birth, there are a few things you should know before filing a claim.
High-Risk Birth Management
You may have a valid malpractice claim if you or your baby suffered a birth injury and the midwife conducting your out-of-hospital birth did not properly assess your risk for a complicated birth. There are several reasons your pregnancy may be considered high-risk including your age during pregnancy, a past c-section, gestational diabetes, and carrying twins, triplets, or multiples. In most of these circumstances, your midwife should refer you to an obstetrician for proper prenatal care and a birth plan.
Risk-assessment should continue throughout pregnancy until you give birth. If you suffer an injury before giving birth, if labor starts prematurely, or if your baby is larger than most babies at the time of birth, your care may have to be transferred to an obstetrician.
Failure to transfer your care to a more experienced medical professional can be a sign of negligence, and if it resulted in a birth injury, you may be able to file a malpractice claim against your midwife or the birthing center where you gave birth.
Informed consent in a hospital is slightly different than informed consent in a home or birth center setting. In a hospital, you are generally consenting to the risks associated with various procedures, medications, and manipulations. While this may be true in a non-hospital birth, you will also usually be consenting to the risk associated with not having certain medications or procedures available to you.
Informed consent is more than simply signing a long document outlining the risks of your choices. It is an ongoing conversation between you and your healthcare provider. It is important that your midwife takes adequate time to inform you of possible risks and various interventions before you go into labor, when you have the time to make truly informed decisions about them.
With more emphasis being placed on the mother controlling her own pregnancy and birth process, informed refusal is becoming more popular. This involves you refusing certain interventions or medications even though your practitioner recommends them. While refusing treatment may mean that you are unable to sue for malpractice if your choice resulted in a birth injury, this is only true if your refusal was informed, meaning you understood the risks associated with your refusal.
Adequate Emergency Plan
Your midwife should have an emergency plan in place in case complications arise during birth. This may mean having medical equipment on hand, having an obstetrician on call, or having a quick route to a hospital planned. This emergency plan should be thoroughly discussed with you well before your due date and should be enacted while there is still time to complete necessary interventions during an emergency situation.
If you decide to have a non-hospital birth, then you may feel like you are taking most of the medical responsibility on yourself. However, if you hired a professional midwife or birth center and your birth resulted in a birth injury, you should talk to an experienced lawyer to see if you have a case to file medical malpractice against your midwife. Visit websites like http://www.snyderwenner.com for more information.