Mom-to-be says her hopes were destroyed by midwife

TAYLOR, Mich. (WXYZ) - A local mother says things went tragically wrong when she used a midwife during her pregnancy.

But after her baby died, she was surprised to learn, there are different kinds of midwives. She was also shocked to discover, Michigan does not license midwives.

"It's like a tornado in my life that has shattered every piece of my life," said Nibras Muhsin.

Muhsin lost her daughter Alia before she even gave birth – and she says she blames the very person she trusted most.

Muhsin wishes she could go back in time.

"I can't reverse the clock, she is gone," Muhsin told Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.

Muhsin says when she was 7 months pregnant, she felt like her OB/GYN office was a bit impersonal, so she did some research online, and found The Birth Place in Taylor.

"I walk in this place, very serene, very organized. They have a wall full of babies' pictures," said Muhsin.

Muhsin says the midwife who handled her care was also the director of The Birth Place. Muhsin says Bridgett Ciupka's resume on her website seemed impressive.

"She sold me a very good story, and I believed her," said Muhsin.

Muhsin says her original obstetrician had diagnosed her with gestational diabetes. But Muhsin says Ciupka convinced her that she didn't really have the condition, which can jeopardize the life of a baby if it's not properly treated.

Muhsin and her husband got worried when she went nearly 4 weeks past her due date. Muhsin says the midwife kept reassuring her that everything was fine – but it wasn't.

"I just feel really sick and I told her, I don't feel contractions anymore, nothing. She told me, it's okay, you stay home," said Muhsin.

Muhsin says she felt like she was dying.

"She said, okay, now you have to go to the hospital, because I don't know what's going on. We went in; they asked my husband, what is her due date? And they start running."
Hospital records indicate both mother and baby had a severe infection – and Muhsin was rushed to surgery.

"The baby had no heartbeat," asked Catallo. "There was no heartbeat," said Muhsin. "She shattered our dreams, totally. I end up with a dead baby in my lap."

Muhsin had no idea that in Michigan, midwives are not licensed by the state.

Bridgett Ciupka is called a Direct Entry Midwife, or DEM. DEMs are not required to have any formal training – in fact they can be self-taught.

"They're operating on their own without any oversight by the legislature, without any oversight by the Board of Medicine, without any oversight by anyone," said attorney Brian McKeen.

McKeen has served Ciupka with notice that he intends to sue her on behalf of Muhsin and her deceased daughter. McKeen says he believes the baby could have been saved if the midwife had transferred Muhsin's care to a doctor before she went nearly 4 weeks past her due date.

"Baby's lives are being needlessly endangered by a woman who is not certified, who is not licensed," said McKeen.

"Gestational diabetes can be very risky to the baby," said Dr. Brian Mason, a Perinatologist who specializes in treating high risk pregnancies at St. John Hospital's Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine.

Dr. Mason did not treat Muhsin, but he says in general, once a gestational diabetic reaches 32 weeks -- she must be monitored closely with non-stress tests which monitor the baby's heart rate, and ultrasounds. He also says he doesn't like gestational diabetics to go beyond 39 weeks – one week sooner than the traditional 40 week due date.

"There's a great increased risk from 39 weeks onward of in utero fetal distress, and even fetal demise," said Dr. Mason.

In Michigan, there are several types of midwives.

Hospitals like St. John in Detroit use Certified Nurse Midwives for mothers who want a more natural birth experience. They are licensed as nurses and have special certifications for midwifery. Certified Nurse Midwives typically deliver in a hospital room that's more "bedroom" than "delivery room" -- but doctors are nearby in case intervention is needed.

Then there are the Direct Entry Midwives, who deliver babies at home or in independent birthing centers. Some DEMs choose to become Certified Professional Midwives, or CPMs. CPMs undergo extensive training and study to get certified by the North American Registry of Midwives, or NARM.

In fact, Bridgett Ciupka used to be a CPM, until NARM took the rare step of revoking her credential back in 2004. While NARM officials say they can't give us details, they did receive several complaints about Ciupka, and NARM determined that she violated their policy.

While NARM can take a midwife's credential – they only set standards. Unlike a state licensing board, NARM has no real authority to make sure a midwife who's lost her credential has stopped practicing.

Ciupka would not talk to Action News on camera because of the lawsuit that will soon be filed, but she told Investigator Heather Catallo that she has delivered about 750 babies successfully, and she says only 3 babies have died. She also told Catallo that she can't discuss why her NARM credential was revoked.

Ciupka denies that she waited nearly 4 weeks after Muhsin's due date to advise her to go to the hospital. She also says that she's still working as a midwife, even though her birth center is now closed.

"We want to be licensed because we want to make sure there's a standard of care. That consumers are protected," said one certified professional midwife.

A member of the Michigan Midwives Association says she's trying to get Lansing to pass a law to license midwives. Twenty-five other states already do that, and a licensing board would then be able to hear complaints, and take action against midwives if problems arise.

"I want to make sure that these moms and babies are birthing in a safe way, and the midwifery model of care has been shown to be an extremely safe option for families, but there should be that safety mechanism to which midwives can be held accountable," said the certified professional midwife.

She and others insist the sad stories are rare, and that home births are a beautiful, natural experience. Midwives are also more economical, yet another reason why the number of home births has jumped 20% in recent years.

As for Nibras Muhsin, she now has a son. But she was so traumatized from her daughter's death that she left the state to give birth.

"I hope no one will experience what we've been through, and what we are still going through," said Muhsin.

State Representative Ed McBroom is in the process of introducing a bill that would require all midwives in Michigan to be licensed. If you would like more information on the proposed law, you can contact Rep. McBroom here.

For more information on midwifery in Michigan and North America, please click below:

Print this article Back to Top