Woman, 36, who campaigned for home births dies having baby daughter at home
Tragic: Caroline Lovell died delivering her own baby daughter at home
A passionate advocate of home births has died after her own home labour.
Campaigner Caroline Lovell, 36, went into cardiac arrest while giving birth to her second daughter, Zahra, at her home.
She was taken to hospital but died the next day. Her daughter survived.
The tragedy, in Melbourne on January 23, will re-ignite debate about the safety of home births.
NHS statistics show that between 2000 and 2008, home births in the UK soared by 54 per cent.
Mrs Lovell had made arrangements for a private midwife to assist with the delivery, but unknown complications during the birth caused her heart to stop.
By the time paramedics arrived at her home, she was critically ill.
The photographer, who leaves behind her husband Nick, her first daughter Lulu, three, and newborn Zahra, had lobbied the Australian government for more state support for women who wanted home births.
In 2009 she told a health inquiry that midwives who assisted with home births needed proper funding and legal protection, in line with other countries.
Her written submission warned that ‘lives will be in threat without proper midwifery assistance’ from the state.
She wrote: ‘On a personal note, I am quite shocked and ashamed that homebirth will no longer be a woman’s free choice in low-risk pregnancies.
‘As a homebirthing mother I will have no choice but to have an unassisted birth at home as this is the place I want to birth my children.’
Mrs Lovell had spoken of her excitement at her impending arrival.
On October 19, she posted a message on the Facebook site for her massage business that read: ‘Maternity leave officially started this morning… had a beautiful last night at work and will keep you all posted on my burgeoning growth as a mother to be – second time round.’
The Midwives in Private Practice group said it was the first time they had heard of a mother’s death following a home birth. A spokesman said: ‘It’s very, very rare.’
HOME BIRTHS: THE FACTS
In England, about 1 baby in 50 is born at home and women are usually assisted through labour and birth by a professional such as a midwife.
Many women opt for home births because they prefer a relaxed, familiar environment and would rather avoid a hospital visit.
The safety of home births is a subject of frequent debate and many experts have called for a ban on the birthing technique.
They argue women who give birth outside of a clinical setting put themselves and their newborns at risk.
In many developed countries, home birth declined rapidly over the 20th century, for example in the U.S. home birth declined from 50 per cent in 1938 to fewer than 1 per cent in 1955.
According to the American Pregnancy Association the risks associated with at-home delivery include fetal distress, cord prolapse, hemorrhage and high blood pressure.
New data suggests home births have risen by 29 per cent in the U.S. triggered by the 'Hollywood influence', better safety measures and lower costs.
A senior midwife told the Mail that a severe haemorrhage was the most likely cause of death, but an inquest has yet to be held.
The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services in the UK said the tragedy should not put expectant mothers off home births.
Chairman Beverley Lawrence Beech said: ‘While this is very sad, it is extremely rare – almost unheard of – for women to die during home births.
‘Research clearly shows that home births in the UK are no more dangerous than hospital births.
‘If anything, it is safer and you are much less likely to have unnecessary medical intervention.’
In the UK, women are provided with NHS midwives if they opt for a home birth.
But in Australia, women are discouraged from giving birth at home and expectant mothers must find a private midwife.
Mrs Lawrence Beech said the ‘medical mafia’ in Australia should reconsider their stance and provide ‘adequate support’ for mothers who choose home birth.
Beth Wilson, Health Services Commissioner for the Australian state of Victoria, said she had long held concerns about home births when medical back-up might not be immediately available.
‘It’s very sad to hear about this and I know the coroner will conduct a full and thorough investigation,’ she said.
Last night, friends paid tribute to Mrs Lovell.
One wrote: ‘This world will miss your beauty, your vibrance and your refreshingly honest and truthful way of living. What a beautiful woman. We will miss you.’
Another said: ‘Caroline was a beautiful being whose naturalness touched so many. She didn’t know she was special, but we did.
‘People loved being around her.’