Home birth campaigner and mother Caroline Lovell has tragically passed away during the birth of her second child.
She was 36.
Caroline long campaigned for midwives present at home births to have funding and indemnity and made a submission to the Federal Government Inquiry into Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009, to that effect.
A mother who died while giving birth to her daughter at her Melbourne home was a strong advocate for home-births, declaring in a government submission that she would be have no choice but to have an unassisted birth at home if midwives were not legally protected.
Online tributes have been pouring in for Caroline Lovell, who died after giving birth to her second daughter Zahra at her home in Watsonia on Monday last week.
The 36-year-old was rushed to The Austin Hospital in cardiac arrest at 10.30am, but died in hospital the following day, a report in this morning’s Herald Sun revealed. A private midwife is believed to have been assisting her during the home-birth.
“A spokeswoman for Midwives in Private Practice said it was the first time she has heard of a maternal death following a home birth in her 15 years’ experience working as a midwife.
“It’s very very rare and it’s just impossible to imagine what might have happened,” she said.
Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson said she had long held concerns about home births when medical back up may not be immediately available.
“I’m very sad to hear about this and I know the coroner will conduct a full and thorough investigation.”
An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman confirmed intensive care paramedics were called to the home in Melbourne’s north at approximately 10.30am. She said the woman was critically ill when they arrived. The Age reported the Ms Lovell was in cardiac arrest.
The Coroner will investigate the death.
OK, let’s play this one carefully. We do not know what happened during Caroline Lovell’s homebirth. There are now two little girls without a mother and a man left without his wife to raise his daughters alone. A tragedy under any circumstances.
Please can we keep the comments respectful of these facts. We considered not running this story today for those reasons. Just like when freebirthing advocate Janet Fraser’s baby died during her homebirth (freebirthers opt to give birth at home without any medical support, even from midwives – Caroline Lovell was NOT freebirthing and was attended by two midwives).
Is covering these stories insensitive? Cruel? Unecessary? Or is it vital that we are open and honest about how things can go wrong very quickly during birth and that the consequences can be fatal and tragic?
On balance, we have decided to carefully and respectfully cover this story. Because while the grief of those affected by the death or injury of a baby or mother during a homebirth must be unimaginable – just like the grief when either of those things happen in a hospital and yes, they do happen – there are pregnant women making decisions about how they give birth every day and they need to be aware of the full picture.
When I went to look for information on the death of Janet Fraser’s baby during her freebirth, I found that all the threads on the freebirthing and homebirth forums that dealt with bad outcomes (including the death or injury of the baby or mother) were locked and not visible to the public who were only able to read the happy health birth stories.
Such censoring of the full picture from those who are considering where to give birth is not only disengenuous but – in my opinion – dangerous.
As Herald Sun columnist Susie O’Brian wrote today:
Around 700 women across Australia give birth at home and in my opinion that’s 700 too many. The problem is that fit, healthy women can still have traumatic, problematic births where things go wrong, and the time it takes to get to an emergency ward can be the difference between life and death.
Yes, women and babies do die in hospitals too, but there are less risks when you have the best medical attention on hand. Research shows that home births are more risky, particularly for the babies, and I don’t know why anyone would take the chance.
Up to half of all first-time mothers attempting a home birth have to be transferred to hospital due to complications, according to Dr Ted Weaver, president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
I appreciate many women may want a natural, low-intervention birth.
But this can be achieved in birthing centres attached to hospitals.
Home births should no longer be an option.
According to the latest major study from the US and Europe, which looked at 342,056 planned home births and 207,551 planned hospital births, planned home births have almost three times the risk of neonatal deaths.
I make no apology for being a hospital girl myself. Even though I have straightforward, uncomplicated births, during my third birth, I hemorrhaged and needed urgent medical attention. It was unexpected but then, there’s very little about giving birth that isn’t unexpected.
Which is why the idea of being away from immediate medical support is one I would personally never contemplate. Not for a moment.
Yes, I know that in many countries such as the Netherlands and even the UK, many women give birth at home. But the Australian medical system is not set up for that. It’s different here.
Regardless, our thoughts and sympathy go out to Caroline Lovell’s family and those of anyone who has been lost during childbirth.
What has been your experience of home or hospital birth? If you plan to have children one day, how would you like to give birth?