Preparing For A Home Birth? Know Your Risks And Your Rights

Today, expectant mothers have more control over their birthing process than in earlier times. Many are opting for a more natural experience without intrusive technologies such as anesthesia, forceps, fetal monitors and episiotomies. More and more mothers are choosing home births. According to the Centers for Disease Control, home births increased 29 percent from 2004 to 2009. But along with the choice for a home delivery comes the added potential for complications and perhaps birth injury. If an injury does occur, it can have life-long consequences that can place a big financial burden on the family. In some cases, a birth injury lawyer can help you recover damages so you can provide the necessary long-term care.

Home Births and Midwives

Many expectant mothers who opt for a home birth will also opt to use a midwife to assist in the delivery. Midwives are health practitioners who are trained in prenatal and obstetrical care. Although they are not doctors, they are licensed to assist in or even take charge of the home birth. They may be independent or associated with a hospital.

Laws vary by state as to what a midwife is allowed to do. Some states allow a midwife to deliver babies in the mother's home only if a licensed physician or certified nurse is present. Other states let midwives manage the pregnancy and birth but require them to collaborate with a doctor.

Choosing a Midwife

It's important to conduct careful research when choosing a midwife for your home birth. Know your state's training and licensing regulations, and make sure your midwife has the necessary credentials. Perform an internet search to see whether he or she has any malpractice suits or negative actions taken against their license.

You should also make sure your midwife has malpractice insurance. In the unfortunate circumstance your midwife's actions result in an injury to your baby, malpractice coverage can mean the difference in being able to provide him or her the necessary long-term medical care or not.

What to Expect of your Midwife

Typically, you can choose to be under the primary care of an obstetrician with some assistance from your midwife or turn over all your prenatal, birth and post-partum care to your midwife. However, if you opt for the latter, your midwife should have a physician she can consult with. Your midwife is obligated to inform you whether you are a good candidate for home birth. If you are obese or have hypertension, diabetes or other conditions that put you at risk for complications, he or she should inform you of those risks and advise you to seek the care of an obstetrician and not opt for a home delivery. Mothers who have had a prior C-section or who are having a multiple birth should also turn their care over to a physician.

Despite having a perfectly normal pregnancy, things can go wrong during a home birth. You and your midwife should have a backup plan. She should have a doctor on call and ready to assist when you go into labor. He or she should have basic equipment such as fetal monitors and oxygen delivery devices in case it is necessary. Your midwife should also know the closest hospital and know when to call an ambulance.

Midwife Negligence

If you or your newborn are injured during the home birth, you will need to prove the injury was due to some action or non-action taken by your midwife. For example, did your midwife adequately explain the risks of home birth or perform a home birth even though you had a known condition that put you at a greater risk for complications? Was your midwife truthful about his or her experience and credentials? Did your midwife fail to seek assistance from a doctor for problems such as a prolonged labor or breech birth or fail to abandon the home birth and call for an ambulance when an emergency arose?

Taking Action

If you or your baby have suffered a birth injury while under the care of a midwife, it's important to call an attorney who is experienced in birth injury law and medical malpractice cases. He or she will know your state's laws regarding midwife liability and can tell you whether your midwife performed in a negligent manner. A birth injury attorney can also sort out who else may be held liable, for example, the consulting obstetrician, the midwife's associated hospital, or equipment or drug manufacturers. Don't waste time as there is a statute of limitations for such cases. Plus, you want to be able to get the best medical care as soon as possible, so the sooner you start the process, the quicker you will receive the financial assistance to provide that care.