The latest birthing trend encourages women to get back to nature and birth unhindered and unaided.
“Free birthing” is where a mother delivers her baby entirely outside the medical system, often at home and without any professional assistance, even from a midwife or doula.
For many free birthers, this also means no check-ups, no ultrasounds, no midwife appointments at all.
The University of Western Sydney found one in 10 women who had a home birth are now taking it one dangerous step further, by engaging in the deadly practice of unassisted childbirth.
According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 303,000 women died last year from complications in childbirth and pregnancy, with millions more suffering injuries, infections and disease, reports Daily Telegraph. In almost every case, the key factor was unavailable, inaccessible or poor quality care.
UPDATE 17 OCT
Midwives Australia have shared their concerns at anecdotal evidence that the number of women ‘free birthing’ has increased, particularly in regional areas, reports ABC.
Gino Pecoraro from the Australian Medical Association cautioned women against the practice and said the safest place for women to give birth was in a hospital.
“I’m afraid we do have data suggesting that women who do have their babies at home are increasing the chance of an intrapartum death or problems with the baby suffering from not getting enough oxygen,” Dr Pecoraro said.
“There is also an increased risk to mothers themselves.”
Dr Pecoraro warned it was an unnecessary risk to take.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s quite clear that it’s safer to have your baby in a hospital.”
Liz Wilkes from Midwives Australia said midwives were trained to respond if something went wrong.
“We can see very subtle changes in birth … but if you’re birthing by yourself then the chances are that those subtle changes won’t be picked up in a period where appropriate action can be taken,” she said.
“I do agree that it is their body and they do have the right to choose and I understand that they are very well-educated women, generally speaking.
“It is a very normal life event for most people, but when it goes wrong unfortunately it can go quite badly wrong … they often don’t know what they don’t know.
Dr Pecoraro said fewer than 1 per cent of mothers chose to homebirth and the number of women free birthing is an even smaller proportion of that.
But Ms Wilkes from Midwives Australia said the data was difficult to analyse.
Free birthers believe childbirth is not a disease
Laura Shanley author of Unassisted Childbirth believes, “someday women will not give birth in hospitals because they will realize that childbirth is not a disease.”
She says, “we will not pay physicians thousands of dollars to probe and cut and tell us what to do. We will not submit to IVs, fetal monitors, vaginal examinations, or Cesarean sections. Nor will we take the hospitals into our homes, bringing there the well-meaning substitute doctors – the midwives – with their sterilized instruments, rubber gloves, and breathing techniques. For, none of this will be necessary.”
Laura says, “instead, like their animal sisters, women will someday deliver their own babies peacefully and painlessly at home. Women will understand that birth is only dangerous and painful for those who believe it is.”
Freebirth Australia say there has been some debate in free birth circles over whether a doula supported birth could be considered a free birth or not.
The general consenus seems to be that yes, it is a free birth, as doulas do not participate in birth from a medical viewpoint. They do not take blood pressure, monitor heart rates, check dilation, or observe the birthing process from a detached, clinical viewpoint. Futher more, they do not direct the birthing woman, or tell her how to birth.
A free birth is an opportunity for an unhindered birth, where the process of giving birth is respected for what it is – a biological function of the female body. Like animal birth, human birth requires a quiet, safe place to birth undisturbed.
My story – things do go wrong!
While home birth, water birth, free birth etc was never on my radar when I had my first child, had I decided to do it that way, our son would not be here today.
My pregnancy was like any other, so I thought. Normal, no issues aside from morning sickness the whole nine months. I could have quite easily gone nine months without check ups and gone onto labour at home not knowing we were facing some serious problems ahead.
My scans were always “normal”, yet eight hours after our first child was born everything changed and not for the better. He had some serious health issues that would have been missed if I was at home – alone.
Had I free birthed I would have been euphorically celebrating my achievement and our new baby, not noticing the first signs that my son was in distress.
I may have successfully “free birthed” but I most probably would have risked the life of my new baby and that is not something I would wish on any parent. You can read our story here.
There are so many options to have your happy “natural” birth, but please still trust the experts and let them be on hand to assist just in case.
Because “just in case” does happen! Trust me.
Share your comments below.