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Medical negligence partner tells Birth Trauma inquiry pregnant women should have more birth choices

The head of medical negligence at Leigh Day has told an All-Party Parliamentary Group on birth trauma that expectant mothers should be given the necessary information to make an informed decision as to whether to give birth vaginally or opt for a caesarean section.

Posted on 08 March 2024

Suzanne White, who has worked in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day for 27 years, was the only legal expert invited to speak at the APPG which was set up to investigate the reasons for traumatic birth and to develop policy recommendations to reduce the rate of birth trauma.  

The cross-party inquiry is led by Theo Clarke MP and Rosie Duffield MP and aims to find out more about the experiences of women who have been affected by traumatic birth. The inquiry is currently gathering written and oral evidence to inform the policy report which will include practical policy recommendations for the UK Government and will be published in Spring 2024.   

Speaking at the fourth of seven evidence sessions, Suzanne White told the panel that, in her professional experience, there was not enough focus on informed consent, and choice for mothers. Instead, she said there is a drive by midwives for women to deliver their babies vaginally when they should be offered options. 

Demonstrating the issue, Suzanne White spoke of a case of a young woman who gave birth to a large baby vaginally and suffered a fourth-degree tear. The mother had a number of scans before the birth but was not presented with other options for delivery.  

She added that, as well as giving women more birthing options, there is a need for more midwives and better training.  

Suzanne White said: 

“In my role, I come in at the end of the pregnancy journey, when reasonable responsible care has not been given, things have gone wrong, and mistakes have been made.  

“Over the course of my career I have seen the lasting impact birth trauma has. It’s not just the physical injury, but also the guilt and ongoing mental health issues. There can be a financial impact if the mother is no longer able to work, marriages break down because there’s extra pressures on the relationship. The impact is far-reaching and can last a lifetime. 

“Unfortunately, there is still a very paternalistic attitude towards women. From my perspective there seems to be a real drive to have a vaginal delivery, even when this could be detrimental to mother and baby. Mothers should be part of the conversation and have a choice, they shouldn’t just be told what to do.” 

Suzanne White
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Inquests

Suzanne White

Suzanne White is head of the medical negligence team and has specialised in this area of law since qualifying in 1999.

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