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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.

Image via shutterstock

  • I don’t believe in free birth. I would always use the medical system.

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  • Seriously, how have we evolved so far to go so backward!

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  • No way would my daughter be alive if I had considered free birth – a trifecta of problems – only 1 picked up on ultrasound but at least because of this we new the best option was a C-Section which then meant the other two issues were picked up immediately upon birth…. If you want a ‘natural’ birth it is still possible just with the experts at hand.

    Reply

  • I don’t think a free birth is a good idea. So many things can go wrong, and if there is no-one there with you then you are putting the life of your new baby and yourself at a terrible risk. Just let the doctor know your thoughts and they’ll try to accommodate you and keep you safe.

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  • So very dangerous to free-birth. Had I followed the insistent ‘suggestions’ of a certain person that “Child birth is natural & you don’t need a doctor to have a baby”, both my daughter and I would be dead. I had Grade 4 placenta previa which was only picked up through an ultrasound. My OB could not understand why I did not present with any symptoms other than the images on the ultrasound, but it was certainly there as she had discovered during my c-section. Had I have ‘free-birthed’, this would not have been picked up.
    The ‘certain someone’ was furious that I had “defied ‘God’s Will'”.

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  • very DANGEROUS and stupid. Home births are fine in a HOSPITAL VENUE IN CASE something goes wrong and it does trust me. I was a midwife for 14 years and I have seen all this happen.

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  • Laura, you are an absolute idiot to even suggest women give birth without any assistance, the what if’s are far too many to list. It’s women like you that put these ridiculous ideas out there and sadly some women are stupid enough to believe what you are saying to be true. Without examinations women will never know if they are giving birth to a healthy baby, or they themselves are healthy throughout their pregnancies.

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  • I am thankful for all the medical staff that were able to stop my hemorrage after giving birth. If not for them my baby would grow up without a mother.

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  • I’m not sure I agree with this article. I do think that childbirth is a natural process and yes, our amazing bodies know what to do so I don’t think it needs to be medicalised. BUT, BUT and BUT that is provided there are no complications. Let’s face it – childbirth is risky and dangerous at times because unforeseen things occur. That’s why it’s important to have been monitored while you’re pregnant and to have medical staff around you just in case. There are plenty of birthing suites where you can have a hands off approach, and that look like you’re at home and not in a medical exam room. Why risk your baby and yourself?

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  • This is just a crazy as not vaccinating. It is a proven fact, and most times when you give birth the doctor and midwife are there just in case. Why try and do it all yourself, ask for help, embrace the help, we are not in the dark ages. I loved the nurses who helped me, it is just that little bit of help that made it that little bit easier to handle. Love all the medical personal that are here to save our lives. Thank you all.

    Reply

  • We are not living in the dark ages. We have medical assistance for a reason. To give mother and baby the best chance of survival.
    My daughter and I wouldn’t be here if we had chosen “free birth”

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  • The author seems to completely contradict herself at the end of the article. Huh???

    Reply

  • Things do go wrong at any stage during pregnancy and I would always be guided by my medical professionals. I will be my own person later on.

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  • Yes there is help for women to give birth in hospitals or birthing places. Without this help I would not be here as I bled badly with my first child. Yet my last 2 children (twins) would be classed as a free birth as delivered the twins in my bed when they decided to come, they came very fast. The ambulance arrived too late. All three f us were checked out and home for tea that night. So yes would if I could go with some medical help for my sanity.

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  • Laura said “instead, like their animal sisters, women will someday deliver their own babies peacefully and painlessly at home”. I hate to burst her bubble but childbirth is not painless. I had 3 very easy and quick births and I have a high pain threshold. I also know of 2 ladies who had their children at home. 1 wanted it at home and the other one went into labour and because it happened so quickly didn’t have time to get to the hospital. Well she and her bub nearly died as they both had complications. The one who had her bub at home like she wanted, her bub also died and had she been at the hospital the chance of survival was much greater as they would have been able to give her the oxygen she needed. We are not in the dark ages anymore and the doctors, midwives don’t just do a 2 week course. They train for a long time and for any emergency that might happen. This might be achievable in a perfect world. But our world is not a perfect fairytale

    Reply

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