Utah health department: Home birth kills babies that would otherwise have lived

The Utah Health Department released a study on home birth, and it mirrors the findings of the data released in Oregon several years ago by Judith Rooks (CNM).

According to page 10 of the document, neonatal deaths in home birth happened at a rate 2.3 x the rate of hospital births. The statistics go on to note that the home birth deaths were reviewed by a committee which states that at least half of the home birth deaths were “strongly” considered to be preventable (meaning those babies would have survived had they been born in hospital). The remainder still had evidence of being preventable, just not as strong of evidence as the other half. None of the cases were considered to be completely unpreventable. The home birth fatalities were attended by midwives, midwives who likely told their clients that home birth is as safe as hospital birth.

What is shocking is that these findings actually skew the data in favor of home birth midwives- the real numbers are likely much worse. For instance, women that transfer to the hospital too late will have their babies death counted as a hospital death instead of a home birth death. You can read more in the “limitations” section of the document.

Here is all the proof anyone should ever need, in black and white- home birth in Utah kills infants that would otherwise have lived. Please refer to my Action Guide at the top of the page if you want to change things for the better.

UPDATE: this large peer reviewed study found nearly the same results. The authors have admitted to soft balling the risk in order to spare themselves the ire of the home birth community.

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Another baby dies in a Utah home birth, and the mother is a home birth midwife

Camille Sorensen Wilcox, a Utah home birth midwife, is burying one of her sons. She was pregnant with twin boys and one of them did not make it because of complications from the birth. Camille is the daughter of Vickie Sorensen, who is currently facing manslaughter charges for presiding over a DIFFERENT twin birth that also resulted in a death.

Camille was actively involved in the death at her mother’s birth center according to media reports, she made phone calls on behalf of the birth center and seems to have been there when the fatality happened, as well as this near miss with a twin that would not breathe after birth.

Why on earth would Wilcox risk her son’s life at a home birth after seeing twins die, or nearly die, at deliveries outside of the hospital? Babies that needed life saving equipment that is only available at a hospital?

Camille Wilcox, as a home birth midwife, is brainwashed into thinking that birth is “as safe as life gets”, that twin births are “a variation of normal” instead of a risk factor. A midwife has a responsibility to her patients to communicate the risk of a choice accurately, but in the case of home birth midwives they don’t even believe the risk is there, so they cannot reliably tell you about it. This is why home birth needs to be regulated. Usually when a baby dies at a home birth I see people blaming the mother, saying she was uneducated or picked the wrong midwife, but this mother is a midwife whose lineage is midwifery, whose mother delivers babies with her. This proves that no amount of “education” in home birth midwifery, or “natural child birth”, will protect children whose mothers choose to have a baby at home. Home birth midwives are a risk to the public health of newborns in Utah.

Camille was warned directly of the risks inherent in a twin pregnancy. You can see her mocking an OBGYN’s warning on facebook here:

camille wilcox obgyn

(the image reads “Ok, so I had an OB pull the “mortality rate goes up at 38 weeks” card on me this week, and I was wondering- What EXACTLY is the mortality rate for di/di twins before 38 weeks, and after? Gail Hart?) 

Gail Hart is another midwife. I am sure that the Midwifery Community assured her that she was fine to have a baby at home, because that’s what midwives do even in the face of unquestionable danger, like these midwives (including a Utah midwife) did in another case that ALSO lead to a fatality.

Now the family is asking for funds to bury their child. Like most home birth disasters an emergency transport was required but did not stave off the inevitable.

camille wilcox transportation cost

On a related note, Vickie Sorensen is still committed to delivering babies. Her trial was postponed until January, and she made this announcement (AFTER the death of her grandson in a home birth in June, mind you):

vickie sorensen still working

I have reached out to the Utah Midwive’s Organization for a statement about the appropriateness of twin births being attended at home but I’m not optimistic about getting a response. From all outward appearances this looks very bad for midwifery because babies are dying left and right in home births and no one wants to be responsible for it. This underscores just how little deaths affect practice standards. If a baby dies from a practice in a hospital and the hospital is alerted, the hospital changes the policy. Midwives just ignore when the data shows they are causing death or injury and double down on their beliefs. Statistics show that home birth will be a victim of its own popularity- the more babies born at home, the more babies will die in completely preventable ways, spurring change. If people band together and become politically active perhaps that can be avoided and home birth fatalities can be prevented by legislation. Each death is a life shattered, a baby dying in agony, siblings who will never meet their brother or sister, empty arms of parents and broken heart. Preventing even one death is a worthy cause. If you feel moved to do something about the state of home birth in Utah please use the action guide at the top of the page.

utah midwives are doing external cephalic versions (ECV) at home

ECV is a procedure that is meant to flip a breech baby in utero so they can be born head first. Here is a run down of it by web md. I am going to note the bits that make it a very bad idea for home birth midwives to attempt an ECV:

Fetal monitoring
To avoid harm to the fetus, a version procedure is closely monitored.

Fetal ultrasound is first used to confirm the fetus’s position, where the placenta is, and the amount of amniotic fluid. Fetal ultrasound is often used to watch the fetal position during the version attempt.
Electronic fetal heart monitoring is used before, possibly during, and after a version attempt. An active fetus whose heart rate increases normally with movement is usually considered to be healthy. If the fetus’s heart rate becomes abnormal, the version procedure may be stopped. (…)

Version procedure

Before the version attempt, you may be given an injection of tocolytic medicine to relax the uterus and prevent uterine contractions. The most commonly used tocolytic medicine is terbutaline.

While the uterus is relaxed, your doctor will attempt to turn the fetus.

(…)

Potential risks of version, for which the fetus and mother are closely monitored, include:

  • Twisting or squeezing of the umbilical cord, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the fetus.

  • The beginning of labor, which can be caused by rupture of the amniotic sac around the fetus (premature rupture of the membranes, or PROM).

  • Placenta abruptio, rupture of the uterus, or damage to the umbilical cord. The potential exists for such complications, but they are very rare.

There is also an extensive list of reasons not to perform a version, and many of them are things home birth midwives cannot actually monitor or recognize.

Here is a screen shot of utah home birth midwife of 35 years Raeann Peck talking about how she performs ECV, as do her colleagues.

evc pic

This is dangerous and stupid. If someone wants an ECV they need to go to a doctor in a hospital.

freedom of choice for birthing mothers

I support the choice of mothers to give birth where and how ever they want.

However, that doesn’t mean I think every birth choice should be endorsed by the state, either. There is a victim in poorly made birth choices, and that victim is almost always a baby. Babies deserve legislative protection to make the birth providers that facilitate dangerous practices accountable for their actions. Reckless home birth midwives are the ones who profit from spreading the fiction that home birth, water birth, etc is as safe (or safer) than hospital birth. They are the ones with everything to gain and nothing to lose, and that is why legislation should be aimed at controlling their actions rather than the parents who were duped into hiring an incompetent provider. Indeed parents should be able to choose what happens to their bodies and when, but that does not mean it is moral to legally allow a profession to flourish to facilitate poorly made decisions.

Right now any charlatan can call themselves a midwife and boast any safety record they want- there is no way for you to know if they are lying. Even if your midwife is licensed, you would have to trust that any negligence on their part was actually reported to DOPL. There are protocols in place that demand reporting adverse events in hospital births, and there are no such safeguards in home birth or out of hospital births. Home birth midwives who lose babies that could have otherwise been saved are very good at convincing clients (and seemingly, themselves) that the death was not preventable. They don’t have the clinical training to actually know if that is true or not most of the time. It is worth noting that I have never, not once, seen a home birth midwife admit that a baby that died in their care could have lived had they been born in a hospital. This is true even when the baby dies because the time between home and hospital was too long for the baby to endure. They won’t admit wrong and I’ve certainly never seen a home birth midwife that stopped practicing after a preventable death, unless the court ordered them to stop (like with Valerie El Halta and Gloria LeMay).

If your midwife loses her license because she hurt people through negligence, guess what? She can just keep on practicing as an unlicensed midwife. She can change her name if needed, and keep doing what she wants to, with full support from the midwifery community. You would never know.

Not even sorry

I’ve covered the VIckie Sorensen manslaughter charges extensively before, but I thought readers might be interested in the absolute lack of remorse on vickie’s part for her role in the death of a newborn.

vickie sorensen cheers to my haters

vickie sorensen witch cartoon

 

vickie sorensen haters

vickie sorensen status stringing up midwives

She also made a point of accusing valley view medical center of having a conspiracy against home birth mothers.

valley view medical center accusations

 

Link

this is the future, if we choose not to learn from the past

Safer Midwifery for Michigan is the group that inspired me to start Safer Midwifery Utah. The founder of SMM lost their child during a breech birth by a home birth midwife. They won a settlement but the midwife filed for bankruptcy so she would not have to pay. The same midwife is still practicing (Audra Post), and she is still willing to attend a breech birth. Safer Midwifery for Michigan says that she has attended at least 2 deaths, and on Audra’s web page she claims to have attended “over 300” births. Lets round it up to 400, to be charitable, and then she has a notably high death rate of 1 per 200 births. That is shameful, absolutely shameful. Direct entry midwives are like walking cases of dunning-krueger effect, their incompetence is what feeds their sense of confidence in their practices. 

This is the future for our state if something is not done soon. I have no doubt that our state has one or several Audra Posts in our midst, but its impossible to hold anyone accountable in a system like ours or find out who they are until its too late. The victims of home birth midwives can be made silent in many ways. It takes remarkable strength and dedication to go through a lawsuit when the plantiff knows the judgment will likely go unpaid, and their child will never be brought back by a judgment. To rehash every detail in front of a judge, to your lawyer… the pain of it makes many loss parents turn away from fighting. It is completely understandable. Some might believe the convenient lies that their midwives cook up to cover up what happened. Without very strict record keeping requirements there is no way to determine exactly how many babies died preventable home birth deaths in Utah, though if Oregon’s numbers are any indication its far too many (these numbers were collected when Oregon had the same legal requirements for midwives that Utah currently does). 

Please click on the action guide on the left side of the page to contact your legislators about preventing the next home birth tragedy. 

Utah Midwive’s Association statement on the Vickie Sorensen trial

Here is the Utah Midwives Associations official statement:


We, the Utah Midwives Organization, are aware of the reported charges against Vickie Sorensen, a midwife in Cedar City, UT. The charges are very serious. We are always concerned when there has been loss of life or potential misconduct of a midwife. 

Midwifery care is meant for normal pregnancies proceeding in a normal manner, and there are definitely times when pregnancy is outside the scope of midwifery practice. We cannot comment on this case specifically as it must work its way through the legal process. 

We offer our condolences to the family who has suffered the loss of their child.

 
This statement reminds me a lot of when MANA’s death rate came out. They said that midwifery care is for low risk pregnancies (as to excuse the astronomical rates of death for twins, vbac, and breech births), but did not make any practice recommendations. The Utah Midwives Association has done the same thing- they have said midwifery care is only appropriate for certain pregnancies, but does not have plans to actually change anything legislatively to ensure that midwifery care is only dispensed to women with low risk pregnancies. 
 
It also reminds me of the Valerie El Halta fiasco. When that happened Utah midwives also acted as though this was some kind of isolated incident or a deviation from the normal, but I happen to know that two of the midwifery schools in Utah teach breech, vbac, and twin births to students. I know that the trade magazine for home birth midwifery calls all these conditions “a variation of normal”. I’ve read Ina May Gaskin books that say the exact same thing. 
 
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, and unless UMA lobbies for common sense policies to ensure the safety of moms and babies I will be forced to assume that they find the legislative situation of utah midwives acceptable. 

The mention of the family is appreciated. I wonder if their condolences extend to plans to make sure no other family ever has to endure such a tragedy again?