In the UK, babies continue to die on the altar of vaginal birth


It’s inevitable, really. When you elevate the process of birth over the outcome, you have to expect that babies are going to die preventable deaths.

That’s precisely what has been happening in the United Kingdom. Driven in part by the immoral, self-serving UK midwifery obsession with vaginal birth, babies who could have easily been saved by C-section are dying at vaginal birth. Driven by the desire to save money in the short term by reducing the C-section rate, the National Health Service has experienced an appalling explosion in liability costs for dead and brain injured babies.

I’ve written in the past about this deadly obsession with vaginal birth:

Promoting normal birth is killing babies and mothers
Midwife : UK deaths result of failing to meet the needs of … midwives?
New document on British maternity services is fundamentally unethical

Not surprisingly, the amount of money paid for bad outcomes and the cost of insurance coverage have skyrocketed (A fifth of maternity funding spent on insurance):

Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said it was “absolutely scandalous” that £482m was spent on clinical negligence cover last year.

The MP’s comments came as a National Audit Office report shows that the NHS in England forks out the equivalent of £700 per birth on such cover.

The most common reasons for maternity claims are mistakes in the management of labour or Caesarean sections and errors resulting in cerebral palsy, the NAO report states.

In other words, the obsession with vaginal birth and the concomitant obsession with lowering the C-section rate have led to an appalling number of infant injuries and deaths.

Those are the stark facts, but sometimes it takes a story to really drive the point home. Beatrix Campbell has lived such a story and today she tells it in the Mail Online, ‘I begged for a Caesarean – but the midwife refused and my baby girl died: As minister holds maternity summit, a mother’s angry open letter. The letter is published in response to a government sponsored maternity being held today.

I wish I could reprint the entire piece because it is both brilliant and appalling, but I can only offer quotes.

My daughter Alexandra suffered a barbaric death at just three days old as a result of appallingly substandard care in 2009.
So I hope today’s seminar will be a soul-searching event. Top of the agenda should be last month’s horrifying finding by the National Audit Office that the number of lawsuits involving ‘obstetric damage’ is rising – as well as ‘significant and unexplained variations in rates of obstetric complications and interventions’.

Behind the jargon there are the stories of babies left with a lifetime of brain damage or, worse, stillborn or dying soon after birth. Stories of babies like Alexandra.

Why does this happen?

What is going wrong? One of the major problems is the conveyor belt mentality that pervades some maternity units.

This is based on the extraordinary idea that there’s a right and wrong way to give birth – natural childbirth is ‘good’, while women who have problems during labour are failing or are even making trouble.

What happened to Alexandra? Her mother was admitted to the hospital for a postdates induction at 42 weeks of pregnancy:

So, 30 hours after the induction had started, with the birth canal still barely dilated, I begged the midwife to organise a Caesarean. I was shocked that the request was brusquely refused as unnecessary. From then on, I was a silly girl making a fuss.

When I requested a second opinion and asked to see the consultant obstetrician, with my husband Craig repeating the request, we were ignored.

If the team had followed national guidance, based on the evidence on what makes for safe obstetric care, I would have had surgery at that point.

Indeed, in its internal inquiry into the death of Alexandra, the hospital acknowledged that our daughter could have, and most likely would have, lived had she been delivered by Caesarean at that point.

Why was Beatrix denied the C-section that she both needed and requested?

At the time of her birth, the World Health Organisation had quotas in place to decide how babies should be born: a hospital should allow no more than 15 per cent of all births to be Caesarean – Britain’s current rate is 25 per cent. That was being ignored as unscientific in many units. After all, how could a decision on safe birth be decided by quota?

Indeed, the quota was withdrawn in 2010 amid a scientific scandal over evidence that it had been drawn up virtually at random.

So Beatrix was forced, without her consent, into a mid-forceps rotation and delivery with Kielland forceps.

Without explanation, I was transferred to an operating theatre where an untrained and unsupervised junior doctor turned Alexandra’s head without moving her body, injuring her brain and spinal cord so badly she was unable to breathe on her own. She was left so severely brain damaged she was on a ventilator for three days before she died in my arms.

What has the health service done in the wake of Alexandra’s death?

Yet four years after Alexandra died we have not received a proper apology from the hospital and we know there has been no disciplinary action against the junior doctor who effectively killed our daughter or the senior doctors who failed in their responsibility to do no harm.

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary carried out an inquiry of sorts conducted by the senior doctor and midwife most closely implicated in Alexandra’s death.

At a meeting with us, they added insult to the terrible injury we’ve suffered by informing us we were ‘just unlucky, very unlucky’.

I was told by a senior midwife that I must keep quiet about Alexandra’s death because the incident might frighten future patients…

In other words, nothing has been done.

So more babies will continue to die on the altar of vaginal birth, and the payouts for obstetric disasters will continue to rise. That’s the price for focusing on process instead of outcome.

Apparently British health authorities are willing to pay extraordinary amounts of money to increase the vaginal birth rate and decrease the C-section rate. And British babies are forced to pay the price with their lives.