Homebirth horror: mother bled to death while clueless Australian midwives assured her she was fine

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The story was horrifying even before we knew the details.

Maternal deaths in the hospital are unusual; perinatal deaths are 100 times more common. There are so few maternal deaths in the developed world that they are measured per 100,000 and most of the women who die have serious medical complications like cardiac disease or pre-existing medical conditions. Death from a routine childbirth complication like bleeding is almost unheard of in an age of blood transfusions and surgical repair … but not in an age of homebirth.

Caroline Lovell was an Australian homebirth activist.

She wrote the following in response to midwifery legislation under consideration:

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… I feel the decision to outlaw homebirth’s is contrary to women’s rights … Please find a solution for women and babies who homebirth after this date as their lives will be in threat without proper midwifery assisstance. 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.

Yours sincerely,
Caroline Flammea, Nick Lovell and daughter Lulu Lovell.

She never acted on her dare, but perhaps she would be alive if she did. According to a tribute published at the time:

Caroline Emily (Flammea) Lovell

LOVELL (nee Flammea). – Caroline Emily 15.07.1975 – 24.01.2012 Passed away suddenly after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Beloved daughter of Jadzia (Jade), loving wife of Nick and exceptional mother of Lulu and Zahra. You taught us how to love Always in our hearts

Instead, Lovell told her midwives that she was dying, and they, with stupidity that borders on the criminal, never even examined her.

“A mother told her midwives she was dying and needed to go to hospital in the moments after she gave birth to her second daughter in her Melbourne home, the Victorian Coroners Court was told on Tuesday…

But just over an hour after the “overjoyed” couple greeted their daughter in their Watsonia home, the court heard Ms Lovell told her midwives she needed to go to hospital. Ms Lovell, 36, died later that night in the Austin Hospital.

And so Caroline Lovell bled to death … slowly, preventably … because the midwives she depended on were too ignorant, or too ideologically brainwashed, to perform even the most basic midwifery tasks. Instead, as reported by midwife Melody Bourne:

Just over an hour after Zahra was born in a birth pool, Ms Bourne said Ms Lovell was light-headed and hyperventilating, telling her midwives she was dying and needed to go to hospital.

“Gaye [Demanuele, the second midwife] then questioned Caroline as to what she was feeling, in this conversation Caroline did not identify any physical symptoms,” Ms Bourne said.

“Gaye and I also made efforts to calm and reassure Caroline.”

Five minutes later, Ms Lovell became pale, cold and unresponsive and an ambulance was called. Examination by hospital clinicians revealed Ms Lovell had suffered two tears and a blood clot.

Any real healthcare provider will tell you that the most chilling words you can hear from a patient are: “I think I’m dying.” That’s because they probably are dying and it is up to you as the provider to undertake whatever examinations and tests are necessary to prove that they are not.

It would have been laughably simple for the midwives to have assessed Lovell BEFORE they reassured her. Her life threatening blood loss would have been easily diagnosed by taking her blood pressure or checking her pulse. Nothing sophisticated was required, merely the most basic of clinical skills.


Under questioning by Tania Cristiano, the counsel assisting coroner Peter White, Ms Bourne said this could have been identified if the midwives had examined Ms Lovell.

“There were more pressing events and there didn’t appear to be any excessive blood loss,” Ms Bourne said,

More pressing events? What could me more pressing than checking blood pressure and pulse to see if their patient was dying?

And that wasn’t the only basic task the midwives ignored. They never checked her past obstetrical history to learn that Lovell was at increased risk of bleeding to death:

Ms Bourne, who said she has since “distanced” herself from midwifery, said she was not aware of Ms Lovell suffering a postpartum haemorrhage in the hospital birth of her first daughter, Lulu.

Ms. Lovell had been warned:

Ms Lovell saw three general practitioners from the same clinic during her pregnancy, where she was warned about the risks of home births on four occasions and underwent blood tests, which revealed she was anaemic.

Dr Daniel Bevz had told the court earlier Ms Lovell was steadfast in her decision to have a “natural” birth.

“She indicated she had discussed that with previous doctors at length and did not want to enter into further discussions,” Dr Bevz said.

Had Ms. Lovell given birth unassisted, she might be alive today. When she told her husband she was dying, he may have called an ambulance to summon real medical professionals.

Instead, Ms. Lovell trusted homebirth midwives and they “reassured” her she was fine even as her life ebbed away.

Ms. Lovell trusted birth and birth killed her.

A fitting memorial to Ms. Lovell would be very strict regulation of Australian homebirth midwifery, so that no other woman or baby dies while ignorant, brain washed, negligent midwives stand by and watch.

But I predict that Australian midwives will fight that tooth and nail. Indeed, I can’t wait to see how midwifery spokesperson Hannah Dahlen tries to spin a mother’s easily preventable death at the hands of homebirth midwives who couldn’t even be bothered to check a pulse.