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13th Aug 2016

Mum Awarded $16 Million After Horrific Treatment During Birth

Sophie White

Preparing for the birth of their fourth child, Caroline and JT Malatesta chose the Brookwood Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama for its reputation for promoting natural birth experiences and the centre’s apparent commitment to empowering women during their labour.

It was a decision that they would come to regret after Caroline was badly mistreated by hospital staff as she laboured, resulting in lasting injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Caroline wrote in Cosmopolitan magazine about her long-awaited vindication in the courts.

She was awarded $16 million, and it was recognised that her experience at the hands of her carers was completely unacceptable.

From the outset, Caroline was treated somewhat dismissively by hospital staff:

“When I walked into my birthing room, the nurse told me to go to the bathroom right away, because I wouldn’t be able to get out of the bed for maybe for the rest of labor.”

It was then that she was told changes would be made to her birthing plan:

“I told her that my doctor said I’d have wireless monitoring and that I would be able to be mobile, but the nurse said my doctor wasn’t on call. From that point on, it became a back-and-forth of ‘But my doctor said I could’ and ‘But you don’t get to.’ The nurse treated me like a disobedient child!”

When Caroline tried to labour on all fours – a position that felt more comfortable and natural to her, the nurse intervened in a shocking and aggressive way by trying to pull the vulnerable mother’s wrist out from under her.

“The nurse told me to get on my back. I stayed on my hands and knees and breathed, trying to relax, as that is what came naturally to me. But the nurse pulled my wrist out from under me and flipped me over on to my back.”

What Caroline relates next is a horrific scene as the mother was forcibly held down while another nurse obstructed the baby’s head to keep him from being delivered.

“Then another nurse held my baby’s head into my vagina to prevent him from being delivered. The nurses were holding me down, and I was struggling — really struggling. I grabbed the side of the bed, and at one point, I even put my foot up against the nurse’s shoulder and face to try and get leverage to flip back over, but was unsuccessful.”

This shocking treatment continued for several minutes until the doctor arrived and the baby was permitted to be delivered, this resulted in lasting injury for the traumatised mother.

“I felt immediate relief because that deep pressure of her holding the head in against the force of my contractions was finally released. That’s why I’m so horribly injured because she kept holding the baby in.”

In the six months following the birth, Caroline suffered chronic nerve pain which she describes as being worse than labour and left her unable to have sex.

After a two-year court battle, Caroline was awarded $16 million and hopes that her case will be a “wake-up call for hospitals that don’t take women seriously.”

“The hospital made it very clear they were uninterested in settling. I don’t think they took me seriously. I think a lot of times hospitals think it’s just ‘silly women’ who want their ‘silly birth experience.’ But it’s more than that. These women that are making these choices are making real, medical decisions.”

The brave mum thankfully seems to have been able to move on psychologically, and the experience has not affected her relationship with her son, she writes:

“I just focused on my baby, my son, Jack — the best part of all of this.”

Though this case happened in the US, it is a potent reminder to health care systems all over the world that the birth experience is something to be taken seriously. Mothers in labour are at their most vulnerable and a bad experience during delivery can have very long lasting effects on a woman’s physical and mental well-being, as well as on the bond she is forming with her child.

It is my experience that for the most part, professionals working in the Irish maternity system are doing a Trojan job. Every day they are battling a system that is grossly underfunded and undersupported. The delivery of my son in 2013 was a very difficult process, and I learned later that many of the issues that came up were a result of lack of staff and a high volume of patients that day.

Hospital staff are under huge pressure, and the well-being of babies and their mothers are of course of the highest importance, but respect and compassion should never be left out of the delivery room either.

How was your birthing experience? Let us know in the comments.