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Mum Reveals Heart-Break Over Death Of Son Nine Months After Suffering Brain Injury In Childbirth

Woman Campaigns To Raise Awareness Of Breech Deliveries Following Complications At Essex Maternity Unit


Andrew Hewitt, Press Officer | 0114 274 4255

A grieving mum is campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of breech babies following the death of her son following complications during his birth.

Henry Payne-Smith was starved of oxygen when it took midwives at the midwifery led Clacton Maternity Unit in Essex around 30 minutes to deliver the rest of his body after delivery of the buttocks.

Two scans during his mum’s pregnancy had highlighted that Henry was in the breech position at 30+4 weeks and 33+5 weeks, an inquest was told.

However, one of the midwives was unaware of the scan results as they were not kept on the same system as medical records charting his mum’s ante-natal care, Chelmsford Coroner’s Court heard. The hearing was also told that the unit was not equipped to deal with breech deliveries.

Henry had to be resuscitated and underwent emergency treatment following his birth on 5 July, 2017. He suffered significant brain damage and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

He died on 1 May, 2018, as a result of his brain injury.

Following his death Henry’s mum Sophie Payne instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to look into her son’s care under Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust – which runs the maternity unit.

Sophie, 22, has now joined her legal team at Irwin Mitchell in speaking out.

It comes after an inquest concluded Henry died of natural causes after an “undiagnosed breech in advanced labour” and “difficult breech delivery”.

Expert Opinion
“The last few months have been incredibly difficult for Sophie and the rest of her family as they attempted to come to terms with the sad death of Henry.

“Sophie had a number of concerns about the events that unfolded during her labour with the greatest concern being that the baby remained in the breech position yet was unidentified until it was too late.

“Nothing will ever make up for her devastating loss but we are pleased that Sophie and the rest of the family at least have some of the answers they deserve as to what happened.

“It is important that the Trust now learns lessons from the coroner’s findings to help improve patient care. We will continue to support Sophie at this very distressing time.”
Auriana Griffiths, Partner

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in handling medical negligence cases 

Sophie was living in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, when she was expecting her first child.

Sophie wanted a water birth so she said it was decided that she would give birth at Clacton Maternity Unit.

She attended the unit at around 11.30am on 4 July, 2017, but was sent home without a midwife performing a scan, the inquest was told. She returned at 9.45pm that evening after her contractions became more frequent.

Staff carried out a number of examinations but did not realise Henry was in the breech position. Sophie’s waters broke at 4.50am the following morning. 

Midwives realised Henry was in the breech position at 4.55am. Henry’s bottom came out first at 5.12am. However, the rest of his body was not delivered until 5.35am, the court was told.

It was a very difficult delivery. An ambulance was called to transfer Henry to the nearest hospital which was nearly 40 minutes away from the midwifery led unit.

Henry was resuscitated and placed in an induced coma. He spent more than three weeks receiving specialist treatment in various hospitals before he was transferred to a hospice for palliative care.

Henry was allowed home with Sophie at the end of August.

Sophie, now of Hythe, Kent, said: “The first time I got to see Henry properly was in hospital when all I could see at the end of the bed was wires. I just broke down in tears. I didn’t want to see him like that.

“The doctors thought he would not survive and that we should say our goodbyes but Henry managed to defy the doctors.

“He was such an adorable and brave little boy who was a real fighter to the end. The nine months I had with him were the happiest of my life despite all the hurdles and challenges Henry faced.

“I am heart-broken that Henry is no longer with us but we will never forget him. He will always be part of our family.

“While I know nothing will bring him back I was determined to gain answers for my little boy so hopefully other families do not have to experience the pain that I have.

“I had also wanted a water birth but the suitability of this was never discussed with me despite a number of scans showing that Henry was in breech position.  If I had known at the time that birthing unit was not equipped to deal with a breech delivery I would have asked to be taken to a hospital which could deal with my birth. The midwives had said that by the time I went into labour, the presentation was no longer breech but I know that I did not feel him turn.

“Because of this I do not feel that I made an informed decision about what was best for Henry. I just wish that when I raised my concerns about Henry’s position when I arrived at the unit, the midwives had taken me to the scanning room - which they could have done as it was daytime at the unit - to check the position before sending me home. I could then have considered the risks and had a discussion about the best place for Henry to be delivered.

“By speaking out I just hope that parents are fully aware of the potential dangers of their baby being in the breech position and, if they feel it is needed, ask questions and push doctors for answers so they can decide what is best for them.

“I would not wish the pain I continue to live with over Henry’s death on anyone.”