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Baby's tragic death during home birth blamed on mom's midwife

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Home birth's tragic ending is a warning to moms

Planned home births are generally considered safe for low-risk mothers-to-be, but a North Carolina couple experienced the ultimate devastation when they had their baby, and they say it was because of the midwife they hired to deliver their son.

Justin and Norine Whitlow attended the trial of their former midwife, Tina Louise Bailey, and watched in disbelief as the judge accepted a plea deal that included a suspended sentence of six to 17 months' incarceration and three years of unsupervised probation — during which Bailey is not allowed to practice midwifery. As she pled down to a charge of felony obstruction of justice (and one count of misdemeanor unauthorized practice of midwifery), they do not feel justice was served in this case and allege that she killed their son due to her lack of training.

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Three years ago, they paid Bailey, who they say presented herself as a professional midwife, $2,800 to help them welcome their son into the world. Unfortunately things didn't go as planned. They say she told them meconium in her amniotic fluid was nothing to be concerned about and also told the couple to lie about how long Norine's water had been ruptured when they finally went to the hospital — four days later. Doctors estimated that their son, Avery, had already been dead for at least one day when he emerged from his mother's badly infected womb.

Home births have been on the rise for a number of years — during the period from 2004 to 2010, that rate increased 41 percent in the U.S. Outcomes are contingent on a number of factors. For starters, midwives usually only accept patients who are low-risk, and they are also trained to know when to intervene and transfer a patient's care to another facility.

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Even though many moms can breeze through a labor and delivery on their own with minimal intervention, that doesn't mean you don't have to have a qualified birth professional on hand for the rare instance that something does go wrong and you need extra care or a transfer. Even if the midwife you interview claims she is professional or certified, demand to see proof. Check to see if she has accreditation from the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council, for example, or under the U.S. Department of Education's Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

Bailey had received her midwifery education at a local school, which was unaccredited and offers no sort of quality certification. And while the outcome may have been the same if she had received better training, it's easy to see that her lack of certification was a serious issue.

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While keeping midwifery as a vital and valid option for moms, dads and their babies, it doesn't hurt to make sure that the practitioner you choose has had the best training so she can make crucial decisions in case things do start to go wrong.

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