Midwife's early morning advice inappropriate

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 19:14 07/07/2014

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A midwife told a pregnant woman to go back to bed when she made an early morning phone call to say she had not felt her baby move for more than a day.

The incident happened in 2011 when the pregnant woman was 34, Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill said in a decision published today. The baby, her first, died before birth.

The midwife was a back-up as the woman’s lead maternity caregiver was not available.

About 4am on Sunday, the day before the induction was due, the woman phoned the back-up midwife because she had not felt her baby move at any time on Saturday or that morning. The baby was overdue and there had been concern before that about the baby’s growth rate.

‘‘The back-up midwife advised [the woman] to go back to bed, to have an early breakfast in the morning, and to call her back afterwards if she still had not felt the baby move,’’ Hill’s decision said.

The back-up midwife had said ‘‘sometimes they will move after something sweet’’.

About 9am, the woman phoned back saying she had still not felt any movement and wanted to go to the hospital otherwise she would be worried all day.

They met at the hospital about 10.30am where an on-call obstetric consultant found the baby had died. The following day the woman gave birth to a stillborn boy.

The woman said the events had an ‘‘immense’’ impact on her family. The midwife had apologised to the woman for the standard of care.

The midwife told the commissioner: ‘‘It is quite out of character for me not to respond immediately to a woman in such circumstances and this has never happened before in my career’’.

She added: ‘‘My only explanation is that I was awoken out of a deep sleep and my advice was not correct as a result.’’ She acknowledged ‘‘this is no excuse’’.

Hill found the advice given to the woman in the early morning phone call was inappropriate, particularly given the additional risk factors of concerns about the baby’s growth and that the baby was overdue.

The standard of care was a severe departure from expected standards and was in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, Hill said.

The midwife was referred to the Director of Proceedings for consideration of possible further legal action.

Her name and that of the hospital were not released.


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