baby footA story broke yesterday that will put a chill into the heart of any expectant mom. But it will likely come as a particularly unwelcome shock to those who are planning for a home birth: A young Australian woman who had been a staunch, outspoken advocate for home birth, died last week following the birth of her second child, whom she delivered at home, attended by midwives.

According to reports, 36-year-old Caroline Lovell was able to hold her newborn daughter in her arms, but was already in cardiac arrest and critical condition when paramedics arrived to transport her to the hospital for care. Lovell died the next day. Her baby, Zahra, survived. Lovell also had a 3-year-old daughter, named Lulu.

Would the same thing have happened to Lovell if she had chosen a hospital birth over a home birth? If Lovell had access to the care and equipment available to her at a full-scale medical facility when her complications set in, would she have survived? We will, of course, never know.

But it does serve as a sharp reminder that childbirth carries risks no matter where you deliver, and when complications occur, a hospital is not a bad place to be. As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted last year in a statement on planned home births, hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places to give birth: "Although the absolute risk of planned home births is low," the group advised, "published medical evidence shows it does carry a two- to three-fold increase in the risk of newborn death compared with planned hospital births."

For many of us, home births just don't seem worth the added risk -- to our babies or to ourselves. And for the growing number of women who believe the benefits of a home birth outweigh the risks? I wish them healthy, uncomplicated, safe deliveries -- and mourn together with them the loss of a woman who fought for their right to give birth as they choose. It's a loss that is not only shocking, but also just so sad.

Does Caroline Lovell's death affect your view of home births?

 

Image via limaoscarjuliet/Flickr