Midwife Negligence Claims
Expecting a baby is an exciting time, but many parents are also left feeling vulnerable. Midwives are the first port of call if you are concerned about your baby, and you expect them to put your mind at ease while your mind is utterly focussed on safely delivering your bundle of joy.
But what happens when the worst comes to pass and the negligence of a midwife has a devastating impact? Do you have recourse through a midwife negligence claim?
The negligence of a midwife can have both physical and psychological effects, and claiming compensation might be the last thing on your mind. However, if your family suffered the trauma of negligence during childbirth, you are certainly entitled to claim compensation for your pain and suffering.
We appreciate that no amount of compensation can make up for the emotional distress of a childbirth injury. Still, it can go a long way to provide financial support to your family to cover any expenses.
This guide aims to cover the harm that results from midwife negligence and what you can do to make a successful compensation claim.
What is midwife negligence?
Midwives are trained professionals who should identify any problems during pregnancy and labour. Once they have recognised anything unusual, they should call in a senior practitioner.
Because of the importance of their role, all midwives have a duty of care towards you and your child. The vast majority of live childbirths go smoothly, but sadly, sometimes mistakes happen, and these mistakes can be crippling to a family.
The areas that midwife negligence covers is vast. In essence, any negligent act on the midwife’s part that caused unnecessary harm to the mother or baby has grounds for a negligence claim.
It is also worth mentioning that not all birth injuries result from neglect – damage can still occur even with the most exceptional care. Let’s, therefore, consider some examples of midwife negligence during pregnancy, labour, and beyond:
- Problems during pregnancy when serious underlying conditions are not diagnosed or treated in time. High-risk pregnancies should be adequately monitored as well.
- Injuries obtained during birth to either mum or baby as a result of mismanagement or negligence. This includes delays in intervening in a difficult birth, not properly monitoring the baby’s heart rate, or incorrect suturing after an episiotomy. These are just a few examples.
- Infections after the birth, and the failure to monitor mother and child.
The results of midwife negligence can have lifelong effects, especially on the child. We will cover this more extensively in the section on which conditions can be caused by midwife negligence.
As you can see, medical negligence claims cover a wide variety of situations, and it may be challenging for you to determine blame during this difficult time. If you suspect that a midwife was negligent in their duties, you should seek the counsel of an experienced injury solicitor as soon as possible.
Can I make a midwife negligence claim?
Any situation that causes unnecessary harm or distress to the mother or child may give grounds for a successful midwife negligence claim. As we’ve mentioned, many medical scenarios can entitle you to claim for midwife negligence.
Your first course of action is to get in touch with a solicitor specialising in medical negligence and birth-related cases. They can assess the situation and guide you through this traumatising period.
The mother will have three years from the date of injury to make a negligence claim. In respect of the child, a claim can be made on their behalf at any point before their 18th birthday. After which, they have a further three years to bring the claim themselves.
It may seem like you have plenty of time, but medical negligence claims can get a bit more complicated than other types of injury claims. So starting your claim as soon as possible can significantly improve your chances of success.
Gather any medical records, reports, witness statements and expenses to support your claim as soon as you can. This will help your solicitor to initiate the claim and reach a compensation settlement as quickly and smoothly as possible.
What conditions can midwife negligence cause in babies?
Some of the conditions outlined below will give you a better understanding of the type of claims you can bring against a midwife if they neglected their duty towards your little one.
Erbs Palsy Claims
Obstetric Brachial Plexus Palsy, or Erbs Palsy as it is more commonly known, occurs when the baby crowns but the shoulders become stuck above the mother’s pubic bone.
Failing to identify the issue can stretch or tear the muscles in the baby’s neck, which can lead to paralysis or a lack of muscle control.
Key nerves within the brachial plexus (hence the name) can be severely damaged. The damage can be long-term or permanent and may require extensive physiotherapy.
Cerebral Palsy Claims
Around one in 400 babies are born with cerebral palsy in the UK. This happens when a baby suffers a brain injury in any number of ways, but it commonly occurs when a baby is starved of oxygen or suffers a head injury during birth.
Cerebral palsy can cause damage to the brain and nerves that control intellectual capacity and physical movement. The symptoms and severity can vary wildly, and in some cases, it can only affect one side of the body. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition.
Physiotherapy can help to some extent to restore movement, and in less severe cases, medication can help relieve the associated muscle stiffness. The care for cerebral palsy is usually ongoing, and the physical difficulties sufferers face can often lead to psychological issues later in life.
There is also the increased risk of developing other conditions like arthritis as one part of the body works harder to compensate for the mobility issues in other areas.
Your solicitor would consider all of these factors to calculate a fair settlement amount if a midwife or other medical negligence caused cerebral palsy.
This condition is linked to problems with the placenta – elevated levels of protein in the mother’s blood can cause excessive swelling, dizzying headaches, pain, vomiting and vision problems. In extreme cases, liver failure and lung breathing issues are common.
When the mum is at risk, the baby is at risk, and full eclampsia can cause fatal seizures. Your midwife should be extra vigilant to monitor any signs of pre-eclampsia.
Naturally, the only cure is to deliver the baby, as the condition relates to the placenta. When diagnosed, mothers should be admitted to the hospital for closer observation. If pre-eclampsia is misdiagnosed, the condition will develop unchecked, with potentially severe outcomes.
Congenital Hip Dysplasia Claims
The baby’s hip joint can develop in a way that the thigh bone is unstable in the socket and may detach completely. While the condition isn’t severe in itself, it can result in a life-long limp, pain, and osteoarthritis without treatment. The treatment itself is relatively straightforward if the condition is diagnosed early on. A Pavlik harness can keep the baby’s limbs in position to develop normally. In delayed diagnosis, surgery to put the hip back in the socket can also be successful.
As part of the newborn screening process, your baby’s hips must be checked 72 hours after birth. Additionally, your baby must have an ultrasound of their hips between 4 to 6 weeks old if the midwife feels like their hips are a bit unstable. Failure to identify congenital hip dysplasia in infants can be considered negligent, and you could be eligible to claim compensation.
Ectopic Pregnancy Claims
Ectopic pregnancies are more common than you might think, and often happen unnoticed. Sadly, it is always fatal to the baby, and there is nothing to prevent it. The pregnancy occurs outside of the womb, generally in the fallopian tubes. If the pregnancy progresses without terminating naturally, it can cause extreme pain and discomfort. There is also the potential for long term harm to the mother.
Symptoms include heavy bleeding outside of your normal period, intense lower abdominal pain, diarrhoea and dizzy spells. If medical staff misdiagnose the condition, you could qualify for an ectopic pregnancy claim.
Jaundice is another fairly common condition and not a cause for concern in itself. High bilirubin levels in the blood cause red blood cells to be elevated because the currently underdeveloped liver of the baby cannot break the bilirubin down. This condition usually self-corrects a few days after birth.
Kernicterus refers to extremely high levels of bilirubin or hyperbilirubinemia (quite a mouthful) that the liver can’t excrete. In this case, there is a risk of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which can lead to brain or nerve damage. In extreme cases, it can lead to seizures or an abnormally small head typically associated with cognitive issues.
Jaundiced babies should always be closely monitored to ensure that they don’t develop kernicterus. Phototherapy can transform bilirubin so that the baby’s struggling liver can break it down. Sometimes the baby may require a blood transfusion. If kernicterus is mismanaged or misdiagnosed, you could have grounds to make a birth negligence claim against the midwife.
Still Birth / Neonatal Death Claims
While birth injuries are traumatic, stillbirths can be heart-wrenching. It can occur for any number of reasons – even naturally, unfortunately. However, in terms of midwife negligence, a stillbirth could be caused by:
- life-threatening conditions that are misdiagnosed or diagnosed late
- excessive force while delivering the baby
- delayed birth
- administering the wrong medication.
Nothing will ease the pain of a baby passing away, but if a midwife or other medical staff were responsible, you should hold them to account. Contact a legal adviser for free, impartial and confidential advice by calling 0800 678 1410.
Maternal Diabetes Claims
Healthy pregnant women without a history of diabetes can develop gestational diabetes without warning, leading to complications if not diagnosed and treated accordingly.
Again, stress on the mother causes stress on the baby, and the discomfort can result in miscarriages or birth defects. Treatment is subject to regular check-ups, and insulin injections or medication can treat the condition effectively.
What conditions can midwife negligence cause to mothers?
The type of birth injuries that mothers can sustain is just as vast as those for babies. It can relate to anything from surgical cuts to deliver the baby (episiotomies), botched C-sections, or through the use of assistive tools like forceps. Medical conditions developed during pregnancy that went unnoticed or were misdiagnosed can also be classed as midwife negligence.
Some of the potential injuries that can be sustained includes;
- Post-partum haemorrhage
- Uterine ruptures or perineal lacerations
- Incontinence and infections
PTSD is worth a mention on its own. An especially traumatic birth can cause post-traumatic stress disorder in the mum, and on average, around 30,000 women in the UK alone experience this.
Birth trauma can affect future births, and some women will have trouble bonding with their babies. Symptoms include violent flashbacks, anxiety and avoiding anything that relates to birth.
If you are unsure whether the actions of your midwife lead to your injuries or trauma, seek out legal advice from an experienced medical negligence solicitor as soon as possible.
How much compensation can I claim for midwife negligence?
Every negligence claim is highly personal, based on the specifics of each individual case. The compensation amount you could be entitled to will mostly depend on the extent and severity of the injuries sustained by the mother or baby.
The compensation amount will include cover (where applicable) for current and ongoing treatment costs, support, loss of earnings and emotional trauma.
If you are looking for approximate compensation brackets, you can look at the Judicial College guidelines. Solicitors and courts use these brackets to calculate your claim value, but this only acts as a rough summary. It does not take into account financial losses related to the negligence, such as loss of earnings, which are known as special damages.
To better understand how much compensation you could receive for a successful midwife negligence claim, speak with an experienced personal injury solicitor. Call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details into our online claim form to arrange a free consultation.
Who is a midwife negligence claim made against?
Who your claim is made against will depend on who was responsible for your care during childbirth. Most women in the UK will have their baby or babies delivered under the care of the NHS. However, some people will choose to use private healthcare services through companies such as Bupa.
Claiming midwife negligence against the NHS
If you delivered or were treated within the NHS, your midwife negligence claim will be handled by the NHS’s own litigation authority – the NHS Resolution. Your personal injury solicitor will happily take your case and directly deal with the litigation body on your behalf.
Claiming midwife negligence against a private practice
If you have experienced negligence at the hands of a midwife in a private practice, your solicitor will claim from the trust responsible for the hospital employing the midwife. Where you received medical care will determine who to contact, but thankfully the solicitor will take care of all the details for you.
What about midwife negligence during home births?
More and more women are choosing home births to bring their babies into the world in an intimate and familiar environment. It is a personalised approach that allows parents to create an individualised birth plan.
Unfortunately, the emotional support at home does not always equate to proper medical support. If you have suffered birth negligence at home, you may still be eligible to make a claim against the midwife that has let you down.
Private or independent midwives are still registered and regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and are subject to the same regulations as NHS midwives. They hold mandatory professional indemnity insurance, so the relevant insurance company will handle any claim made against them.
How long after the birth are midwives responsible?
If childbirth goes well and both mother and child are healthy, you won’t usually need to have any further contact with a midwife ten days after the birth.
By this point, they would have run all the necessary checks on both mum and baby and will discharge you if everything is in order.
You can still contact your midwife up to 28 days after your baby is born, after which they will no longer be responsible for treating or diagnosing you. If there are any medical concerns after this point, you would visit your GP or hospital.
Find out if you have a valid claim
Birth injuries resulting from midwife negligence can be devastating. The areas covered by malpractice are so enormous that it can be challenging to keep track of, especially during an emotionally loaded time.
Due to the complexity of medical negligence claims, you need the assistance of a specialised solicitor to handle your claim with the relevant parties. The solicitor will take care of everything to ensure that you get the proper care and support you deserve.
To find out more, contact 0800 678 1410 for a free, no-obligation consultation with a legal adviser. Or leave your details, and an advisor will call you back.