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Home birth supports suspended after Limerick woman dies giving birth to first baby

Tributes have been paid to a wife and mother who died after giving birth at her home in County Limerick earlier this month.

Laura Liston, who was in her thirties and from Dunnaman in Croom, Co. Limerick, and Tubbercurry in Co. Sligo, tragically died after delivering her first baby at home. She is survived by her husband and her infant son, Shay, who was born healthy. 

Home births in the midwest region have been temporarily suspended following the tragedy, and a review of the case has been launched. Women registered for the service in the midwest will instead have to attend the University Maternity Hospital Limerick until further notice.

A statement released on Friday by University Hospital Limerick said:

“We can confirm we have temporarily suspended the home birth service in the midwest after a recent maternal death.

“The staff of UL hospitals group and of the home birth service would like to extend profound sympathies to the family involved on their devastating loss”.

The UL Hospitals Group added: “We have commissioned an external review of the home birth service in the midwest.

“A group of external experts, including those with midwifery and obstetrics expertise, is being assembled to conduct the review; looking at patient safety, clinical governance and any other issues arising.”

A spokesperson for the hospital group said it had contacted the “small number” of women in the region who were due to have home births in the coming months “in relation to continuing their care”.

4,294 births took place in University Hospital Limerick last year, according to a spokesperson, with a total of 650 home births taking place in Ireland last year.

The spokesperson added: “We won’t be commenting further on the specifics of this case as a review is due”.

It has been reported that Ms Liston developed life-threatening complications following the home birth and was brought by ambulance from the University Maternity Hospital Limerick, where she was initially brought, to the acute unit where she was pronounced dead.

Her funeral took place at St Mary’s Church, Croom last Friday, 10 June. At the funeral mass, her husband Fergal Mannion paid an emotional tribute to his wife. 

Fr. Richard Davern, who previously married the couple, celebrated Ms Liston’s funeral mass. He said that while the tragedy was “sad beyond words”, the couple’s newborn baby, Shay, had brought the family hope during “an awful time”.

“It was the most tragic case I have ever witnessed in my ministry or ever dealt with, and I just hope to God that the family will find strength,” he said.

“They have great hope with the little boy – indeed, he has given them great hope and something to focus on at this awful time.

“I suppose it is ironic that the weakest one, a little baby, is actually going to be the strongest bind that keeps the family together and keep them motivated. It’s sad beyond words, God love them”.

Fr. Davern said that Ms Liston’s husband “thanked the community and said the kindness and goodness of people has been overwhelming”.

Croom Parish Priest Canon Willie Fitzmaurice said the community was in deep shock, and that the grieving families had been met with an outpouring of support.

“They are heartbroken, it’s something beyond their imagining, they are just heartbroken and in shock. The community has reached out and shown a tremendous solidarity to the family. Tthey were shocked and heartbroken at the loss of a woman of such a young age, she was in her mid thirties,” Fr Fitzmaurice said.

The parish priest said Ms Liston had helped many of the most vulnerable through her work as a probation officer.

“She was a probation officer in the prison, she would have been well known and very popular with all the people she encountered in those areas of rehabilitation and so on,” he said.

Some of those who knew Ms Liston paid tribute to the much-loved mother in an online book of condolences.

One former classmate described Ms Liston as ‘gentle’ and ‘caring to all’.

“I am shocked and so saddened to hear of Laura’s passing. I have such lovely memories with Laura during our time in secondary school. She was gentle, kind and caring to all. My sympathies to both the Liston and Mannion families. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam”.

Home births in Ireland have been on the rise, with an increase in demand seen across the county in recent years. Almost 650 women opted for home births last year nationally across the public and private service, with the national service caring for 53% more women than in 2019.

272 women had a homebirth in 2019, while 183 chose a homebirth in 183, showing that numbers have steadily increased.

The homebirth service is managed by hospital groups across their maternity units, with the service delivered within guidelines and the scope of practice of self-employed and community nurses.

The service is generally available to women with low-risk pregnancies, with women who have health conditions or who are older open to being accepted for the service following assessment.

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