Risks of Medical Errors at Birthing Centers

birthing centers

For many parents, the birth of a baby is an exciting, joyful time. But for others, dangerous complications, serious injuries, or even fetal death occur because of negligence in birthing centers.

Some birth injuries are unpreventable. But when professional negligence causes a birth injury or fetal death, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can identify the people responsible and hold them accountable.

If you believe your baby’s injuries were caused by professional malpractice, the Ohio birth injury lawyers at Robenalt Law can help.

Are Birthing Centers Safe?

Birthing centers have become a popular alternative to delivering a baby in a hospital. Birthing centers offer prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal services that are provided by a midwife instead of a physician.

Birthing centers market themselves as offering a holistic approach to labor and delivery that occurs in a home-like environment rather than a hospital setting. Many birthing centers also offer water births as an option that is intended to reduce the stress of labor.

While birthing centers may be a viable option for healthy women who anticipate a low-risk pregnancy and birth, there are risks associated with delivering a baby at a birthing center. In addition, water birth carries additional risks and is not recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

How is a Midwife Different from a Doctor?

A doctor has graduated from medical school, is licensed to practice medicine, and is trained to perform surgeries, including deliveries via Caesarean section. Doctors primarily practice medicine and deliver babies in hospitals.

A midwife may also possess various certifications and can help women who have low-risk pregnancies and deliveries. However, they are not licensed to perform surgery.

Most midwives opt for a wait-and-see approach during pregnancy and delivery, while doctors will often focus on more and earlier intervention during pregnancy and delivery.

Doctors are more likely to deliver a baby in a hospital as opposed to a birthing center. A hospital offers additional resources if a low-risk pregnancy or delivery becomes more complicated. A doctor practicing in a hospital will also have additional tools available to intervene to save the mother and baby if an emergency should arise. For example, a doctor delivering a baby in a hospital will be able to order an emergency Cesarean section if complications arise during delivery, while a midwife would need to contact an outside emergency service provider.

Water Birth Risks

Water birth has become an increasingly popular option in the United States and is intended to reduce stress on the mother and baby during delivery. When a woman is giving birth in water, she is often overseen by a midwife at a birthing center.

In some cases, a mother will go through labor while immersed and then deliver the baby out of the water. Other times, the baby is delivered while the mother remains submerged. Regardless of which process is used, there are risks associated with giving birth in water.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has stated that water births may be associated with shorter labor and the decreased use of epidurals during the first stage of labor, but that there is insufficient data about the safety of water birth during the second phase of labor. As a result, the ACOG recommends against water birth and instead suggests that birth should occur on land.

Despite warnings from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, water birth remains a popular option at many birthing centers. Unfortunately, many mothers considering water births do not receive adequate information about the risks of water births or are not properly evaluated for the level of risk.

Substandard care during water birth can lead to severe medical complications and injuries to both the mother and the baby. Common complications that result from water births include hypoxic brain injuries, infection, umbilical cord tears, and water aspiration.

Hypoxic Brain Damage

Hypoxic brain damage, also known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, is a serious risk associated with water birth that occurs when an infant’s brain does not receive enough oxygen. Delivering a baby while immersed in water can prevent the baby from receiving adequate oxygen. This can lead to severe brain injury or even infant death.


Water births involve laboring and pushing underwater. This can result in fecal matter or other contaminants getting into the water, which can put mothers and babies at an increased risk of infection. A baby can also swallow contaminated water which can lead to a serious infection like pneumonia.

Umbilical Cord Tears

If the umbilical cord tears underwater, it can be difficult for the medical team to identify and diagnose the tear. This can lead to excessive fetal bleeding.

Water Aspiration

Water aspiration occurs when a baby inhales water during birth. While some studies make reference to a “diving reflex” that prevents a baby from breathing in or swallowing water, the reflex may be overcome by other factors that trigger inhalation.

Robenalt Law Seeks Justice for Families Who Suffered from Birth Injuries

If you believe your baby was injured during a water birth or because of substandard care by a midwife or at a birthing center, the Ohio birth injury lawyers at Robenalt Law can help.

Most birth injuries are preventable. But birth injuries caused by medical negligence are very complex, and you need an experienced attorney on your side. At Robenalt Law, we have experience investigating and litigating birth injury claims and will fight for your family’s rights. We understand that no amount of money can make up for injuries to a baby. But financial compensation can help pay for medical treatment and for additional care that your baby may need.

We invite you to learn more about the medical malpractice cases that we handle, to get answers to Frequently Asked Questions and to contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.

Categories: Birth Defect

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