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Family Urge NHS to Review Practises After Baby Dies During Childbirth

Expert Medical Lawyers Call For Lessons To Be Learned After Death Of Baby Ava


The parents of a baby who died during childbirth are relieved to receive a coroner’s verdict confirming that delays in her delivery were the cause of her death.

Baby Ava Rose Parkes was just a few hours old when she died on 23 October 2011 following a complicated labour. The family say there were serious delays during Ava’s birth.  However, a hospital investigation found that their internal unit guidelines had been followed.

At an inquest into Ava’s death, held at Rotherham Coroner’s Court this week, HM Coroner for Rotherham, Nicola Mundy, returned a narrative verdict in which she found that Ava had died because she was starved of oxygen when her shoulder became stuck against her mother’s pelvis during birth; a condition known as Shoulder Dystocia. The coroner found that the time interval between the delivery of Ava’s head and the delivery of her body had led to an irretrievable brain injury.  Ms Mundy found that Ava’s head had delivered at 12.30pm but her body had not been delivered until 12.42pm. 

Ms Mundy acknowledged that this delivery had been very complicated by such a severe Shoulder Dystocia and was a difficult medical emergency for the staff.

Ava’s mum and dad, Katie Pilling and Nicky Parkes and her grandmother, Sandra Pilling, of Mexborough, were represented in their search for the facts surrounding Ava’s death by specialist medical lawyer Laura Craig from Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office.

The family has urged Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust to ensure more senior members of staff are available in emergencies at the hospital to prevent the death of babies like Ava, who they believe would have lived if a doctor had been immediately available to help deliver her when complications arose.

The inquest heard that 25-year-old Katie’s labour progressed slowly and a decision was made to induce the baby’s birth.  At the final stages of labour midwives struggled to deliver Ava and tried various techniques to deliver her quickly and safely. Ava eventually arrived at 12.42pm but she wasn’t breathing. Medical staff managed to resuscitate her but she showed little improvement.  After consulting with staff, her parents had to make the traumatic decision to turn Ava’s life support off only a few hours after she had been born.

Dr Marta Cohen, Consultant Pathologist, gave evidence to the court and confirmed that Ava was deprived of oxygen at the time of her birth.

Following the verdict, Ava’s mum Katie Pilling said: “It has been almost a year since Ava died and we are heartbroken that she’s not a part of our lives. We think about her all the time and are sad that she won’t be with us for her first birthday. 

“It was important for us to come to the inquest to find out why she died and to get answers to all the questions we’ve had for so long. Ava’s birth was obviously a very traumatic experience for me, my partner Nicky and my mum Sandra who were both with me at the birth.  We believe a doctor should have been called much more quickly once it was obvious that Ava was stuck. Both the junior and senior midwife that were looking after me were unable to free

Ava’s shoulder when the emergency happened.  A Registrar, who had been called for but was busy in theatre, eventually attended and delivered Ava, but we believe it was too late by then to save her.”

“We hope the Trust acts on the Coroner’s verdict and improves its internal systems to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.  We don’t want any other parents to lose their much-loved baby as we have.  We now wish to move on and grieve for our loss in private.”

Laura Craig, a medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “When complications arise during childbirth every minute counts. Sadly, a significant time passed between when Ava’s head delivered and when she was fully born. This time period was much longer than in a normal birth.  We believe Ava would have had more of a fighting chance if an obstetric registrar or consultant had been contacted sooner to help with the delivery.  Shoulder dystocia is a well recognised medical emergency.

“We hope the trust will learn valuable lessons from Ava’s tragic case so that procedures are in place to safe guard against future incidents.”