news

Warning: this woman should not be allowed to attend births

Lisa Barrett

 

By MAMAMIA NEWS

Between 2007 and 2013, four babies died during home births.

According to the coroner, each of these deaths was preventable. And each of them had something else in common; they were presided over by former midwife turned home birth advocate Lisa Barrett.

A home birth is a conscious decision on the part of the mother to hold a birth in a non-clinical setting, often using ‘natural childbirth’ methods in place of pain relief drugs. They are typically attended by midwifes, who specialise in this field – without any doctors or specialised medical equipment that can only be found in hospitals.

And they are only recommended for standard low-risk pregnancies – not for multiple births, breech births, births in which the mother is older or the baby is premature or overdue. And not when the mother has a history of complicated previous births requiring high level medical assistance such as a caesarean.

For the most part, homebirths occur without any drama. But sometimes they do not. These four cases were situations where things went horribly, tragically wrong.

Barrett moved to Australia with her family in 2002 from the UK and was in charge of the Ashmore maternity unit in South Australia. However, after gaining her visa, Ms Barrett began practicing home births. On her website called “Homebirth: A Midwife Mutiny” Lisa Barrett (who admits she is not in fact a midwife but a ‘birth advocate’) states, “I am experienced in all types of birth and this includes birthing at home with babies in a breech position, twins and birth after caesarean.”

In 2012, Anthony Schapel, a South Australian coroner revealed that all four of these children’s deaths ‘could and should have been prevented’.

Meaning these babies could and should have survived had their mothers agreed to undergo a caesarian – or had they opted to give birth in a hospital as opposed to a home birth with one unregistered midwife.

At the time, Ms. Barrett informed the coroner that she had withdrawn her midwifery registration, and had opted to act only as a birth advocate. However in January of this year she was linked to a 5th homebirth death.

Following the inquest Mr. Schapel recommended stricter guidelines to stop unregistered midwives delivering babies, and higher public education into the risks of homebirth.

ADVERTISEMENT

In February this year the police investigated Ms. Barrett, however no criminal charges were laid because there was no likely prospect of a conviction.

Fact: Birth is natural, but it is risky.

However, Ms Barrett is now facing professional misconduct allegations by the Nursing and Midwifery board, which could see her banned from practicing and fined up to $30,000.

The board told the Health Practitioners Tribunal Ms. Barrett “demonstrated knowledge, skill and judgment and provided care and advice which were substantially below the standard reasonably expected of registered midwives of her level of training or experience” and “inappropriately planned” the births.

A two-day hearing involving the midwifery board and Ms. Barrett has been scheduled for December.

Fact: Birth is natural, but it is risky.

Just last year 36-year-old Caroline Lovell died whilst giving birth to her second child at home.

One midwife cannot provide the same level of support as a hospital can. One midwife may not have the medical training or expertise to provide help when things go horribly – sometimes fatally – wrong.

At Mamamia, we respect women’s autonomy – and along with that women’s rights to make their own decisions. What we don’t respect or condone is misinformation online or elsewhere (Ms Barrett holds regular ‘homebirth coffee meetings‘ where pregnant couples are encouraged to come along and ask her questions about homebirth) that misleads women to think that a homebirth will be the safest, most comfortable option for them and their child – regardless of their specific case – when in fact the consequences can be devastating.

What we don’t respect or condone is people such as Lisa Barrett who are not qualified to oversee births, becoming ‘birth advocates’, and in the process providing information that may cost the lives of babies and traumatise families forever.

The loophole that allows unregistered midwives to deliver babies at home needs to be closed.

What do you think about the inquiry into Lisa Barrett’s conduct? Do we need to be more proactive, and make sure that the people who offer advice during birth are fully qualified?  If you have had or  ever considered a homebirth, has the Coroner’s damning findings changed your mind?

Tags:
00:00 / ???