Unexpected death of baby not connected to decision to have natural birth, inquest hears

Dublin District Coroner’s Court told Erin Blaides suffered meconium aspiration syndrome when born at National Maternity Hospital

The unexpected death of a baby less than a day after she was born was not connected to her mother’s decision to have a natural birth, an inquest has heard.

Erin Blaides died at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin on January 16th, 2019 as a result of complications with her lungs and brain.

Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard that Erin’s mother, Louise Blaides, wanted to have a natural birth and chose to avail of the ante-natal Domino care service provided by community-based midwives.

Dr Paul Downey, a pathologist who conducted a postmortem, said Erin had suffered meconium aspiration syndrome – a condition where meconium, a baby’s first faeces, gets into the lungs. He said Erin was normally formed and had no congenital disorder but was covered in thick dark meconium and had suffered a severe brain injury. He said it was unclear exactly why it had happened.

While meconium can be normal in labour, Dr Downey said in Erin’s case there was the additional problem that it caused the blood vessels in the umbilical cord to contract, which reduced the amount of blood being supplied. He said the condition would have occurred at least 16 hours before Erin was born and before Ms Blaides arrived at the hospital.

Dr Downey said what happened was unrelated to the fact that Ms Blaides wanted a natural birth and did not want her membranes to be ruptured to facilitate delivery.

Not worried

Ms Blaides, from Greystones, Co Wicklow, has three other children and said Erin’s labour had been the nicest she had experienced. She said was not worried when she went into the hospital after starting to have contractions. She said a lot of what happened after Erin was born was “a bit of a blur” but she believed her baby only needed help and she would be fine.

However, she said her husband, Stephen, had a different recollection of events and knew that it was serious.

Ms Blaides said she had become frustrated at not being brought in to see her daughter before she was informed that Erin was very sick and “the outcome was not going to be good”. She heard Erin had suffered seizures but was not in pain.

She recalled the final hours with Erin during which the couple brought in their two older sons, Ryan and Finn, to see their new sister and to sing, read together and take family photographs.

“We celebrated what we called Erin’s Day. The boys met their sister and we had a christening and a party,” she told the inquest.

Recalling Erin’s final moments after medical staff removed life support, Ms Blaides said: “I fell asleep as she did in my arms.”

Mortality rate

Several medical staff told the inquest that Erin was pale and unconscious with her eyes closed and struggling to breathe after being delivered.

Neonatal consultant Lisa McCarthy said that around a fifth of full term babies might have a problem with meconium, but only a tenth of these might experience meconium aspiration syndrome, a condition with a 10 to 15 per cent mortality rate.

Coroner Dr Clare Keane, based on the evidence, returned a verdict of death by natural causes. She offered her sympathy to Erin’s family and acknowledged that there were still some unanswered questions about her death. Ms Blaides, who subsequently had a daughter named Orna, welcomed the verdict.