A doula in Illinois pled guilty to practicing as a nurse without a license following the death of an infant at a homebirth she attended. Megan Reed participated in the birth of client as a doula in 2017. The baby died hours after her birth as a result of aspirating on meconium. The story of baby Junia was broken wide open when Certified Nurse Midwife Rita Ledbetter shared the news of Reed’s guilty plea on social media.
In a Facebook post shared by Rita Ledbetter, she outlined the court proceedings and the case against Reed. Ledbetter worked with the county coroner and provided expert commentary for Reed’s prosecution. Reed clapped back and joined the discussion to share her side of the story.
Ledbetter says that in 2017, Reed befriended a woman at a local chiropractor office. The woman, who was pregnant, confided in Reed that she was in a physically abusive relationship. Reed counseled the woman on domestic abuse and offered her services as a doula for her birth.
Shortly after meeting the expectant mother, Reed says that the mother hired her as a doula. The mother planned to have a homebirth. Because she was not a licensed provider, Reed says she provided names 0f midwives to the woman.
After interviewing several midwives, Reed says the mother opted for an unassisted home birth. Reed agreed to stay on as her doula even though a trained birth provider would not supervise her.
Ledbetter told me in an interview that Reed did provide the mother with multiple names of midwives. However, she disputes Reed’s claims that the mother decided not to use the midwives on her own.
According to multiple people in the birth community, Reed told the mother the midwives were not good people. Because of their established relationship, the mother believed Reed. By Reed’s influence, the mother decided not to hire a midwife.
Instead, Reed presented herself as a certified birth coach, doula, and trained to manage emergencies. She bragged to many that she helped deliver her sister’s child. Additionally, her website Fearless Doulas says she’s a certified Bradley instructor.
Reed offers doula services to mothers that choose a hospital and both assisted and unassisted homebirth. Her choice to help mothers birth unassisted is ultimately what landed her in legal hot water.
In 2017, Reed updated many social media groups, including a local doula group. Reed told the other doulas that she was currently helping a woman through 4-days of labor.
Other doulas within the group grew concerned that Reed was practicing outside her scope of expertise. Reed shared with the group she got into the birth tub with the mother. When the baby was born, Reed moved the umbilical cord off the baby’s neck and shoulder. She admitted to placing the baby on the mother’s chest.
Doulas are not trained to deliver babies nor can they legally help deliver a child. However, Reed admitted to the group that she assisted the mother.
Following the birth, Reed said the baby appeared healthy. She told the parents the baby seemed normal. However, within hours the baby struggled to breathe. In an interview with investigators, Reed told them the baby appeared to inhale but not exhale.
Noticing the baby might be struggling, Reed instructed the father to run to the pharmacy to buy a thermometer. By the time he returned, Reed had said the baby’s breathing had become more labored.
Reed admitted to grabbing a suction bulb and attempted to suction out the baby’s mouth and throat. She said the mucus she pulled out appeared brown and thick. After suctioning the baby, Reed attempted CPR and asked the father to call 911.
After the baby transferred to the hospital, she was pronounced dead. While Reed insists the doctors could not provide a reason for her death, the coroner report lists the baby’s cause of death as meconium aspiration.
As Ledbetter started to dig into Reed’s past and read through the screenshots, she believed that Reed misrepresented herself to the couple. When Reed met the woman at the chiropractor office, the woman was new to the area. The woman belonged to a conservative religious community and was naive about birth.
Through their relationship, Reed influenced the mother not to have a midwife. She misled the woman about her certifications. Reed does not hold any active certifications to instruct the Bradley Method nor is she certified as a doula.
The woman trusted Reed to help her through her labor and delivery. After the birth, Reed stayed much longer than the standard 3 hours listed on her website. During that time she gave medical directions, suctioned the baby, and instructed the dad to go to the pharmacy and buy a thermometer.
After an investigation, Rock Island County prosecutors charged Reed with six counts of Practicing as an advanced practice registered nurse without a license. In May 2018, authorities arrested Reed on the charges. She denied the allegations and any involvement in the death of the baby.
For months, the case inched through the court system. Ledbetter said she attended every hearing and brought a photo of the infant to court. Finally, on Wednesday, January 23rd, Reed agreed to a plea deal. She decided to plead guilty to one charge of practicing as an advanced practice nurse without a license.
As a part of the plea, the court sentenced her to 24 months of supervised probation, a $300 fine, and court fees. During her period of probation, she is not allowed to work as a doula nor market herself as a birth professional.
Despite the guilty plea, Reed’s website remains online and offers coaching and doula services. She continues to minimize her involvement. In a post to Ledbetter, she said she only pled guilty to suctioning the baby not practicing without a license. The baby would have survived had the baby been seen by medical providers immediately following the birth.
The birth community in the small Rock Island Community feels mixed emotions about the verdict. Many think that Reed got a slap on the wrist for contributing to the death of the baby. However, they remain hopeful the guilty plea will stop Reed from influencing and harming other expectant mothers in the area.
Read Ledbetter’s full post:
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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