August 21 2017, updated 1:23pm

Baby dies after mum leaves hospital early

Mother discharged 5 hours after birth

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009

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A newborn girl whose mother was discharged from Wellington Hospital five hours after the birth died later that night.
Baby death raises questions

Her first-time parents believe her sudden death might have been an "avoidable tragedy".

The baby died last Friday, just as Capital and Coast District Health Board was issuing a memo encouraging midwives to discharge mothers within six hours of giving birth, directly from the delivery suite. That policy did not apply to first-time mothers and came into effect only yesterday.

The hospital says the early discharge decision was made by the independent midwife. The midwife said the decision was up to the couple, and she believed they knew they could have stayed longer.

The devastated father, 28, told The Dominion Post yesterday that though he and his wife, also 28, were not forced to leave the hospital, it was not made clear they could stay if they wanted to.

The baby was born about 5am on Thursday, after a 20-hour labour. The family left the hospital at 10.30am. The baby died early on Friday. An autopsy will be done.

The parents did not see a doctor or a nurse after the birth. When they asked their midwife how long they would stay, she told them they could go home immediately if they wanted.

"They were the professionals with the experience and we relied on their advice. No one ever expressed any doubt about her going home.

"We do not blame anyone - the midwife and the hospital staff did a good job - but we are speaking out because we do not want this tragedy to happen to anyone else."

The couple did not know whether their baby would have survived if she had stayed in hospital, he said. "But maybe there was something that could have been picked up ... We didn't know there was any risk. We just did what we were told."

Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support coordinator Joan Curle, who has been supporting the couple, said she was shocked they had been allowed to leave so soon.

"She was a first-time mother, she was recovering from an episiotomy [a cut made to help childbirth], she hadn't slept in 30 hours, she did not have the support of extended family, the baby hadn't even learned how to latch on."

Capital and Coast issued a memo last week encouraging midwives to discharge mothers who had their second or subsequent child without complications directly from the birthing suites. They could stay in the suites up to six hours.

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The DHB came in for strong criticism for saying women who went home directly from the delivery suite would be given a $100 supermarket voucher. It backtracked on the voucher scheme on Thursday.

Capital and Coast's clinical director of women's health services, John Tait, said last night postnatal beds were always available for women having their first baby.

"The decision for early discharge was made between the lead maternity carer [the midwife] and the woman. The hospital was not formally consulted about discharge."

The midwife said the couple knew they could stay longer. "Nobody tells them to leave." There was "no way" she would have discharged the family if she thought the woman was not well enough to leave.

- The Dominion Post

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