Pregnant Mum Dies During Labour after Experiencing Chest Pain

On September 10th, at 3 am, first-time mum-to-be Shelly Cockburn arrived at Tauranga Hospital in New Zealand. 

The 29-year-old was in the early stages of labour and, after a textbook pregnancy, was ready to meet her new baby – a little girl she planned to name Kora.

However, just one hour later, something went horribly wrong and, in a tragic twist of events, Shelly died during an emergency c-section. Baby Kora was born healthy and perfect but Shelly never got a chance to meet her daughter.

shelly cockburn mum dies in labour

Mum dies during labour of first baby

It should have been one of the happiest days of their lives, but instead, the birth of Kora and the death of Shelly has left the family heartbroken and shocked beyond belief. How could this have happened? What went wrong?

According to Shelly’s fiance, Kirk Ross,

We went in to have a baby. She had been labouring for about an hour. Everything was going good. She was pushing with the contractions.

She was going through the labour and she said her chest hurt. That’s when she had a fit, a sort of seizure. I was just scared really. I didn’t really know what was happening.”

kirk and shelly - mum dies in labour

The doctors rushed in and immediately took Shelly to an operating room for an emergency c-section while Kirk and Shelly’s mother anxiously waited outside the closed doors.

Kirk waited for 20 minutes before being told the news of his daughter’s birth and his partner’s death. Although doctors tried CPR to save Shelly, she died on the operating table from a suspected amniotic embolism. 

What is an amniotic embolism? 

Few details have been released regarding the suspected cause of Shelly’s death. However, an amniotic embolism is a very rare pregnancy complication. It occurs when amniotic fluid enters the bloodstream of the mother to trigger a serious reaction. This reaction then results in cardiorespiratory (heart and lung) collapse and massive bleeding (coagulopathy).

According to the 13th Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee report, an average of 10 mothers die each year nationally from pregnancy-related causes. Since the PMMRC began investigations in 2006, 13 women have died from an amniotic fluid embolism around the time of childbirth. Shelly makes 14.

Support pours in for Shelly, Kirk and Kora

Since his unexpected and tragic loss, Kirk is coming to terms with Shelly’s death and navigating the newborn waters on his own with the support of family. He has given up work to care for Kora and is taking it day by day.

mum dies labour - kora and kirk ross

I don’t really know how I’m coping at the moment. I don’t really know where to move on from here. It’s pretty hard. It still doesn’t really feel real.”

Heaven’s Newest Mother

Friends have set up a GiveaLittle page – Heaven’s Newest Mother – to help Kirk and Kora get through this difficult time and to remember Shelly.

Shelly was beautiful. She had a great smile, and she was always happy. She always made me laugh and would have been an amazing mother.”

Our thoughts go out to Kirk, Kora, and family during this awful time.


Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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