Woman, 36, who campaigned for home births dies having baby daughter at her own house
Caroline Lovell, 36, rushed to hospital after giving birth
Death shocks midwives across Melbourne
Coroner to conduct a full investigation

Growing trend: In England, about 1 baby in 50 is born at home

Growing trend: In England, about 1 baby in 50 is born at home

An Australian woman who was a strong supporter of home births has died tragically, delivering her own baby daughter at home.

Caroline Lovell, 36, was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after giving birth but could not be saved. Her daughter Zahra was delivered healthily.

A professional photographer, Mrs Lovell was a powerful advocate for home births, making a submission to the government supporting moves that ensured midwives who attended home births had funding and indemnity.

It is believed that Mrs Lovell had made lengthy preparations for the home birth of her second child and had arranged for private midwives to assist the delivery.

Her death has shocked midwives around Melbourne, where she lived.

The Midwives in Private Practice group said it was the first time they had heard of a mother's death following a home birth.

'It's very, very rare and it's just impossible to imagine what might have happened,' said a spokeswoman.

But Health Services Commissioner Miss Beth Wilson said she had held concerns for a long time 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 told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper.

An ambulance spokesman said Miss Lovell was critically ill when paramedics arrived at her home.

Tributes have poured in for Mrs Lovell, one saying the 'beloved' mother had died giving birth to Zahra.

Another friend described her as a 'healer and friend to many more.' One woman commented: 'We are better people for knowing you, Caroline.'

In her submission to the government, Mrs Lovell said that she would have no choice but to have an unassisted birth at home if midwives were not legally protected.

It's very, very rare and it's just impossible to imagine what might have happened…

However, it is understood a private midwife was present during the birth of Mrs Lovell's second daughter Zahra.

Ambulance sources said Mrs Lovell was rushed to Melbourne's Austin Hospital in cardiac arrest, but died in hospital the following day.

In her submission to a government inquiry into rules governing midwives and nurses, she argued that midwives who helped with home births should receive more funding and be legally protected like they were in other countries.

'On a personal note, I am quite shocked and ashamed that home birth will no longer be a woman's free choice in low-risk pregnancies.

'I urge you to make some way that home births may go ahead past July
2010 (when changes tightening the laws were due to come in).

'Please find a solution for women and babies who home-birth after this date as their lives will be in threat without proper midwifery assistance.

'And 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.'

Miss Joy Johnston, a spokeswoman for Australia's Midwives in Private Practice, said an official investigation was needed to determine Mrs Lovell's cause of death, pointing out that 'this is an issue about birth, not so much about home birth.'

Many women chose home births, she said, so they could get to know their midwife before delivery.


A Mother and newborn baby

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.