Mother unaware of danger during birth

A mother whose baby died in childbirth said she would have opted for a caesarean section had she known he was in danger.

Christchurch Hospital staff said they explained the risks of a natural birth when a baby was in a breech position but the couple declined a C-section.

A coroner's inquest into the death of Kashius Harvieah Selwyn Edwards was held in Christchurch yesterday.

His death sparked a Canterbury District Health Board review of breech delivery guidelines.

The boy died 38 minutes after he was born, feet first, limp and not breathing, at 3.17am on July 24, 2012. His head was stuck for about five minutes during the delivery, compressing the umbilical cord.

There was a two-minute delay getting a neonatal specialist to the birthing suite during this time, as staff initially called the wrong one.

Kashius showed some signs of life during resuscitation efforts but his condition deteriorated. He was declared dead at 3.55am.

Police and the health board investigated.

Sergeant Jon Harris told the inquest that hospital staff told him the birth was difficult but the baby's death was "unexpected".

His mother had four previous pregnancies and had never had a C-section.

In her statement read to the court, the mother said she was willing to do "whatever was best for the baby".

"No-one ever told me he was in danger. If I knew he was in danger, I would have had a caesarean," she said.

Her partner said he recalled medical staff saying there were risks with a natural birth when a baby was in a breech position.

CDHB midwifery director Samantha Burke took part in an internal inquiry into the death.

She told the inquest that Kashius had "intrauterine growth restriction", meaning he was small. Two of the mother's previous babies had the same condition.

An ultrasound at 35 weeks found Kashius was in the breech position and his growth was static.

At that time, the mother was told there were risks with a vaginal birth but it could be done.

An induced birth was planned for the following week.

While she was in labour, the risks were again discussed, "the advice being to have a C-section. This was declined... until delivery was imminent", Burke said.

After Kashius' death, an examination of the umbilical cord found gas levels were at an acceptable level, which did not align with the baby's poor condition. 

Burke said a baby that had grown better during pregnancy might have responded to resuscitation.

Three to four per cent of New Zealand pregnancies showed a baby in breech. The majority were delivered by C-Section, she said.

Several recommendations were implemented after the baby's death. They included ensuring a neonatal specialist was called before the birth so they were present during the delivery.

Coroner Richard McElrea reserved his decision.

The Press