PETALING JAYA: The sharp rise in unsafe deliveries involving "doula" (birth coach) services is alarming, the Health Ministry said today.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were 58 recorded cases of unsafe deliveries in Johor last year, in which five took place at home, involving a doula.
"There has been a rise in unsafe deliveries related to gentle birthing (a home programme teaching couples self-hypnosis for childbirth) advocacies driven by individuals or groups known as doulas," he said in a statement.
"More worrying, two of those cases were high-risk ones that required deliveries at hospitals, but they (mothers) still chose to do it at home after being incited by certain quarters."
Noor Hisham said in comparison, only 35 unsafe deliveries were recorded in Johor in 2016, with no cases of doula reported.
He added ministry statistics also showed that there had been two deaths of the mother giving birth in 2013 and another two deaths of babies during delivery, in 2016 and 2018 respectively, which involved doula services.
He was responding to the death of a baby during a botched home delivery at a house in Pulai, Johor on Feb 4, believed to have involved a doula.
He confirmed that the baby had died due to asphyxia (suffocation) after the head got stuck in the mother's perineum while undergoing a breech delivery at home, with the help of an individual who is not a trained health official.
He added that that none of the ministry's staff has been called up by police to provide their statement to date, but officials from the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor have submitted a report to the police with relevant evidence regarding the case.
Noor Hisham also reminded that those who practises midwifery but are not registered with the Malaysia Midwives Board could face a fine not more than RM2,000, or a jail term of not more than a year, or both.
He said the mother giving birth or the guardian could also file a civil suit against the doula should there be any complication or death during delivery, with sufficient proof that it (death) was caused by the doula.
Noor Hisham also said the country recorded a 98% safe delivery rate by skilled health personnel since 2009. A mere 0.42% unsafe deliveries by skilled health personnel were recorded in 2016, down from 24.8% in 1990.