“Freebirth” – a Fad or Here to Stay?

by Lynn M. Griesemer

Unassisted Homebirth has gained media attention over the years.  Like an accordion, there’s a big burst of noise , then it gets quiet.  For the most part, I’ve observed that unassisted birth is in the background, where the powerful establishment prefers. Unassisted Homebirth is commonly referred to as freebirth, Unassisted Childbirth (UC) and a host of other titles: unassisted birth, unattended birth, birthing alone, solo birthing, empowered childbirth, unhindered birth, do-it-yourself childbirth, ecstatic birth and a hand full of others.

Unassisted Homebirth, or Freebirth, refers to the act of giving birth without a doctor or midwife and commonly occurs at home. More couples are turning to this type of birthing for two main reasons: (1) they've had an unpleasant hospital experience and know that childbirth is so much more than what they encountered in the hospital or (2) their philosophy of birth is that childbirth is a natural event, not dangerous and not something that needs to be managed by doctors and the hospital staff.

Until recently, most stories on unassisted birth focused on the sensational and unplanned "emergencies": the woman who miraculously gives birth in the car on the way to the hospital or the boy who calls 9-1-1 as his mother gives birth in the bathroom. The media will always be interested in showing videos and photos of this seemingly radical and extreme way of giving birth, but the time is drawing near where "Freebirth" is going to become a subject to be explored and discussed, where both sides (doctor and unassisted birth advocates) state their case.

Freebirth is gaining momentum because intelligent women are questioning everything and not simply adhering to doctor-managed birth. No matter what the hospital administration tells you or what your OB/Gyn promises, the birth process is still managed with the intent of making profits and avoiding lawsuits. Freebirthers know that the best chances of having a satisfying and successful birth experience is to take matters into their own hands and birth at home, with no interference, rules, regulations or other people's opinions.

Why would someone choose to have an unassisted homebirth? They might have been disappointed with a past birth experience and are looking for something better. Couples who cherish intimacy and the natural unfolding of events choose to have their babies this way. No one pressures you to take drugs; there are no rules and regulations. The baby is born when it's ready, not at the convenience of a doctor or hospital staff. Couples realize that birth is more than just a medical event - it is social, sexual and spiritual. Those elements of birth are hard to capture in a hospital or with a midwife attending a birth at home.

Two common questions unassisted births are often asked: (1) Wouldn't someone at least want a midwife present? (2) How safe is unassisted homebirth?

Many women do want a midwife present at their birth. Those who opt for unassisted homebirths view midwifery as another level of medical interference. Midwives are influenced by regulations and personal opinions. They bring their fears, dogmas and past experiences to every birth. Couples who are confident and prepared find that they do not need a midwife to attend their birth. Visit my website or read my book for a full discussion of why I am less inclined to employ a midwife at my birth. (www.unassistedhomebirth.com or UNASSISTED HOMEBIRTH: AN ACT OF LOVE, also available on Amazon.com.)

How safe is unassisted homebirth? Many of the questions posed about unassisted homebirth assume that we need a trained expert or paid professional. People automatically assume that the hospital is the safest place to give birth. That is not necessarily true. Babies die regardless of where they are born and who is in attendance. I can cite several examples that you can verify for yourself: the woman who was set on fire during a C-section in California (2006) or the two mothers who died from botched C-sections in New Jersey (2007).

No formal studies have been done to validate the safety of unassisted birth, but from the hundreds of unassisted birth friends and acquaintances I've made during the past twenty years, I can tell you that these women are serious about their births, thorough childbirth researchers and many would probably be categorized as "low risk."

So what about the fathers? What goes through their minds at a birth with no doctor or midwife? Many fathers cannot put into words the worthiness they feel. In many cases, freebirthers prefer to birth alone - "solo," but in cases where the fathers join their partners, they feel needed and involved in the birth of their own child. In the hospital they are just extra. They are given the token job of picture taker, breathing coach, and for the most part, they sit passively by their wives.

A father who catches or receives his own child will develop a strong attachment to his newborn baby. Many fathers describe an anxiety and tension when they think about the responsibility they have committed to. But once labor progresses, they relax and are very calm and preoccupied with the task at hand.

So what do couples do when something goes wrong? They call 911 or go to the hospital. They take corrective measures. The bottom line is: freebirthers expect everything to go well during the birth and it does cross many people's minds that they or their baby can die. They work through their fears and plan for a positive outcome.

As word gets out about freebirthing, more and more women will be choosing this type of birthing. It's pleasurable and it's the ultimate experience of birthing. It's not perfect, but it's completely different from a hospital experience. I know because I've given birth four times in the hospital and then twice at home, unassisted. Although I do not regret my four hospital experiences, I wish I had known about unassisted homebirth from the onset - I would have definitely made changes.

I am very hopeful that more women will be making better choices for their birth experiences and if that includes "freebirthing," I wish them the best!

copyright © Terra Publishing, 2007, 2014