Rare complication raised over mum's death

·2-min read

New mother Caroline Lovell might have died from a rare amniotic fluid embolism shortly after the birth of her second daughter in 2012, lawyers have suggested.

But the pathologist who completed her autopsy says there've been five cases in Victoria in the last decade and all showed evidence of amniotic fluid in the lungs - Ms Lovell had none.

Already a mother of one, Ms Lovell gave birth in a pool in her living room in January 2012 alongside her husband, a doula and midwives Gaye Demanuele and Melody Bourne.

Th two midwives are now in court charged with manslaughter, allegedly caused by gross negligence in their care of the Wantirna woman.

Ms Lovell went into cardiac arrest within hours of the natural birth. She was resuscitated by paramedics and rushed to hospital but after a period of stability in ICU her condition deteriorated and she died from multi-organ failure.

Pathologist Yeliena Baber conducted an autopsy on Ms Lovell at the time and found the most likely cause of death was the result of a post partum haemorrhage.

But in a hearing for Demanuele and Bourne in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, the women's lawyers suggested an amniotic fluid embolism could not be ruled out as a cause of death.

An AFE is when amniotic fluid enters the mother's bloodstream.

They also suggested Ms Lovell might have had an anaphylactic reaction to syntocinon, a drug given to her by both the midwives and doctors in hospital to cause her uterus to contract.

But Dr Baber said if Ms Lovell had an anaphylactic reaction it would have been immediately obvious.

While she was in no doubt Ms Lovell suffered a haemorrhage, she was unable to rule out that she had suffered an AFE also. The autopsy was also unable to reveal when Ms Lovell suffered the haemorrhage.

Paramedics who first treated Ms Lovell at home recorded "pulmonary embolism - ?? amniotic" in their notes while also recording there was "no PPPH (post partum haemorrhage) evident.

But Dr Baber found no evidence of amniotic fluid in Ms Lovell's lungs to support a confirmed finding of AFE.

The court has also heard from from Ms Lovell's husband Nick, mother-in-law Brenda and sister Jessica that there was no visible gush of blood after the birth, and that there was no appearance of major blood loss in the birthing pool.

But Dr Baber explained that if Ms Lovell haemorrhaged in the pool or shortly afterwards it might not be so obvious.

"A haemorrhage doesn't need to be arterial like you see in the movies," she said, demonstrating blood spurting from a wound.

"Often haemorrhages can be due to venous bleeding, which is insidious and continuous, and in which case you wouldn't necessarily see that massive rush of blood."

The hearing is continuing.

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