12 Jun 2019

Coroner investigates why baby died soon after birth

8:19 pm on 12 June 2019

The mother of a baby who died just hours after birth wishes she had spoken out and asked for a caesarean section, rather than following doctors' advice.

Newborn baby feet with identification bracelet tag name.

Photo: 123RF

The coroner in Palmerston North is looking into why baby Charlotte Harding died soon after birth in August 2015, and whether an earlier caesarean section would have made a difference.

Stacey Harding had difficulties with two prior births, and although her pregnancy with Charlotte was normal and she wanted a natural birth, she made it clear in her birthing plan that if anything went wrong, she wanted a C section.

She arrived at Palmerston North Hospital around 9pm because she hadn't felt her baby move all day.

A second-year registrar whose name is suppressed made plans for a caesarean around 11pm.

She gave the baby a biophysical score of two out of 10, saying anything below eight was concerning.

However, when a senior obstetrician arrived at nearly midnight, he cancelled the C section and asked for more tests, followed by a trial labour.

He soon left for the night, leaving the patient in the junior doctor's hands.

The junior doctor said because the baby's condition was already abnormal, it was hard to tell if it was getting any worse.

Ms Harding, Charlotte's mother, said even though she'd previously made it clear she wanted a C section if something went wrong, she felt obliged to follow the doctor's plan.

"There was no option given to us, it was just ... you believe your doctors. It was not clear ... she [the baby] was not moving."

Her partner, Kris Harding, said he knew something was wrong and he continually asked for a C section because that had been agreed in the birth plan.

But the junior doctor couldn't recall either parent making that request.

Mr Harding said the senior doctor subsequently told him he hadn't seen all of the patient's notes.

The midwife (LMC), who had handed Stacey's care over to the hospital doctors, said in hindsight she could have been a stronger advocate and impressed on the doctors that the parents wanted a C section.

Ms Harding wishes she'd been more forceful, too.

The registrar said she spoke up and voiced her concerns with the senior obstetrician, but she believed given his experience, he was more likely to be right.

He returned home, and left her in charge for the night.

She continued to monitor the baby's heart rate, but said because it was abnormal from the start it was hard to tell when or if it got worse.

She made the eventual decision to perform an emergency C section around 4.30am.

Despite that, she agrees a C section should have been done earlier.

The hearing continues and the senior obstetrician will appear tomorrow.