Pregnancy and childbirth have always carry some degree of risk. Fortunately the overwhelming majority of babies born in the UK are delivered safely thanks to the competence and professionalism of our health service.

Very occasionally however, accidents occur during pregnancy and childbirth. The results can be devastating for the babies and their parents. A recent report concerned with the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, has revealed that hundreds of deaths amongst patients may have been avoidable. Other children and their mothers suffered life-changing injuries. A Police investigation is currently underway.

Sadly mistakes happen. Errors on the part of midwives occasionally lead to catastrophic or even fatal harm.

Richard Blair, Partner in the Clinical Negligence department at WBW Solicitors in Paignton and Member of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel, explains some of the conditions that can result from mistakes on the part of midwives and obstetric teams at maternity units.

Medical negligence can arise if midwives and others fail to recognise something important which occurs during pregnancy or childbirth, and fail to take necessary and immediate action.

For example, there are occasions when a decision should be taken to deliver the baby by means of a planned caesarean, section rather than a conventional delivery. Whilst a conventional delivery is generally appropriate, there are occasions when a caesarean section delivery is essential for a variety of reasons. If a conventional delivery takes place when there should be a planned caesarean delivery, urgent and very serious complications can arise. If there are problems delivering the baby and the baby shows signs of distress, there is a risk that he or she will be deprived of oxygen. Unless this is addressed immediately, the results can be catastrophic.

Other obstetric and midwifery errors which can have serious consequences include:

  • Failing to identify the fact that the expectant mother has developed an ectopic pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, or uterine rupture;
  • Failing adequately to monitor the baby’s heart rate during labour and respond to warning signs;
  • The incorrect use of birthing tools such as forceps during the delivery;
  • Administering the wrong medication;
  • Failing to diagnose or treat signs of infection in mother or baby or both;
  • Delivering the baby in such a way that mother develops a perineal tear. The consequences even with prompt repair can be devastating for mother.
  • Failing to screen a newborn baby for congenital hip dysplasia (a genetic condition of the hip joint);
  • Failing to deal with a retained placenta.

Other problems can also arise. Some errors can lead to a range of life-changing injuries including cerebral palsy, fracturing of bones, shoulder dystocia, failing to identify and adequately to treat jaundice leading to a very dangerous condition called Kennicterus, nerve damage, brain injury or death.

If you, your baby or a loved one, has suffered harm due to negligence by your midwife and you want to explore whether you may be entitled to compensation you should contact our medical negligence team straight away.

A medical negligence expert can help you gather the evidence needed to strengthen your case and will refer you to a medical expert who will assess how the injury was caused and the effect it has had on your life or that of your baby.

They will also negotiate an out-of-court settlement that meets you needs, or be with you to offer advice and speak on your behalf if your case needs to go to court.

The amount of compensation you could receive will depend on the extent of your injuries and your long-term prognosis, but it could include damages for:

  • pain and suffering;
  • the cost of medical care in the long term;
  • travel expenses related to your medical treatment;
  • a claim for parental or professional care;
  • loss of income;
  • physiotherapy;
  • the purchase of suitable property and the cost of its adaptations to the meet the needs of an injured child.

If you want to discuss whether care by your midwife was potentially negligent and whether you may be eligible to claim compensation, contact Richard Blair at WBW Solicitors in Paignton on 01803 546100 or email

WBW has offices in TorquayPaigntonNewton AbbotExeterBovey Tracey,  Exmouth,  Honiton,  Sidmouth,  Launceston,  AxminsterChard and Seaton.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.