Babies at risk from mothers’ fears of medical system

Growing numbers of people in Russia are choosing to turn their backs on official medical services, due to a distrust of the public healthcare system. Fearing that treatment by licensed doctors may be dangerous, they risk the lives of their children.

In the latest example, a mother tried to use the internet instead of a doctor to help her baby, which resulted in the three-month-old girl’s death from pneumonia. Doctors say, had little Asya been hospitalized earlier she could have had a chance of survival. However Asya’s mother, Yulia Mikova hesitated too long and she is now facing criminal charges for negligence.

Speaking on a Russian TV talk show, Yulia tried to explain why she and people like her distrust for official medicine:

“You have to understand, we did want to avoid unnecessary medical intrusion, but we are not in a cult! We cared about our children’s health and wanted only the best for them!” she insisted.

“Asya was my happiness! Losing her is the worst possible punishment. I’ve learnt my lesson. God is my witness that what happened is the scariest thing in my life,” she added.

In the show she was hounded as “an irresponsible mother who watched her daughter die online,” after her desperate posts asking for help on the internet reached the wider public.

The tragic story is just one among those who do not trust official healthcare. They may be a fraction of Russian society, but their number is increasing, and doctors are alarmed. Part of the trend is giving birth at home without a licensed doctor’s supervision.

“There are usually three reasons behind a woman’s choice: first is when a mother falls under the influence of an alternative group that makes a business out of it, delivering babies without a license. The second group are those who prefer everything natural as it was before hospitals, and the third is the most unpleasant for us – when a patient had a bad experience connected to the medical establishment,”
Mark Kurtser, Moscow’s chief gynecologist, told RT.

Stories of medical maltreatment or even worse continue appearing in the Russian media. An unplanned amputation of a baby’s limb and an alleged swap of a woman’s healthy newborn for a disabled one are among the most recent cases.

Those dark stories often have another side to them, but they are scary enough to make young women dread any hospitals, drugs and doctors.

“People who are afraid of clinical medicine have their reasons for that – they are afraid of the complications they might get in maternity wards, of unnecessary medical intrusion. There are quite a large number of deaths and crippled lives,” explained Dmitry Aivazyan, medical lawyer at the NGO League for protection of patients' rights.

Veronika Titova believed her mother when she told Veronika that doctors might harm her and her baby.

“The idea of a natural delivery at home sounded very convincing to me, until my son and I nearly died in that birth. I am lucky neither of us ended up in a grave!” she told RT.

Veronika is one of those who opted for home birth with the assistance of only a midwife. The practice is unregulated in Russia and skates on legal thin ice, making it open to abuse. Veronika’s midwife barely had any relevant training, but took the money and never asked if the baby survived.

Despite the controversy over home birth, the majority agrees that in today’s Russia if you want to minimize the risk, giving birth in hospital is the answer. But with mothers wanting more choice, the system as it currently stands could do with a re-think. After all it is the newborns and their health that matter most and their arrival into this world should be a happy and a safe one.